This fall, public school districts should prioritize full-time, in-person classes for grades K-5 and for students with special needs. That's the top-line recommendation of a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The report includes an updated review of the evidence from around the world and a set of recommendations on mitigation strategies for the coronavirus in school settings. It adds to a hefty reading list of back-to-school guidance that now includes comprehensive recommendations from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers and every U.S. state except Kansas. There's a growing consensus on a few best practices across most of these reports, such as the importance of masking and social distancing.
What stands out from this particular report is its emphasis on collaboration with public health authorities and focus on not just recommendations for action now, but decision-making strategies for schools under conditions that will continue to change.
Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and member of the committee that created the report, told NPR that it comes at a time of crisis and repeated failures.
"We failed children ethically and in three important ways. First and foremost, that we have done such a terrible job containing this pandemic. Secondly, that we closed schools ... abruptly without any good plan about how to transition to distance learning and without adequate infrastructure for so many kids. And third, that the moment we closed schools, we didn't immediately start planning about how to reopen them."