Department of Education Offers Recommendations on School Openings

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April 14, 2021
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As a part of the efforts aimed at supporting the return to in-person learning across the country, the U.S. Department of Education (“Dept. of Ed.”) released a document containing new recommendations for educational institutions on Friday, April 9, 2021. In its COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 2: Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs (“Handbook”), the Dept. of Ed. offers various suggestions designed for the safe reintroduction of in-person learning on campuses. 
 
While the Handbook focuses particular attention on K-12 institutions, there are a few key sections of the Handbook that highlight the overlapping and common interests affecting institutions across the educational spectrum. The following guidance could significantly impact colleges and universities:
 
  1. The Handbook offers specific recommendations related to the adaptation of physical learning spaces to reduce the risk of viral spread. These recommendations, which may be characterized as best practices, include suggestions related to building maintenance, HVAC system alterations and custodial care. (See Handbook, pages 23-25).
  2. The Handbook provides recommendations that could influence coordination and create partnership opportunities between secondary schools and colleges, and offers various suggestions related to student preparation and skill advancement. Among its various proposals, the Handbook recommends the expansion of enhanced college advising, summer bridge programs coordinated with colleges, dual-credit programs and early college high schools. (See Handbook, pages 28-29).
  3. The Handbook proposes recommendations regarding the increased utilization of summer camps, enrichment programs and similar programs aimed at enhancing the readiness of students. Such programs may offer unique opportunities for colleges to partner with local schools during slower summer months. (See Handbook, pages 31-32, 46-47)
  4. The Handbook also identifies potential strategies for alleviating the heightened stress felt by educators during the pandemic. (See Handbook, pages 58-61)
 
In addition to the Handbook, a best practices repository will be housed at https://bestpracticesclearinghouse.ed.gov/. This repository will include information related to colleges in addition to K-12 institutions. 
 
If your institution needs assistance in considering the implications of these or other federal recommendations, please contact the Steptoe & Johnson PLLC Higher Education Team.