When we first heard the news about COVID-19 in February 2020, over 50,000 schools in the US were closed by March and over 26 million students were missing classes.
Skip to one year later and nearly half of the world’s students are still affected by partial or full school closures in response to the pandemic. According to Forbes, university enrollment has also decreased 2.9 percent, and community colleges nearly 10 percent since last spring.
Now with the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out, many of us are wondering: is it safe for kids to go back to school?
In March of 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) allocating $122 billion to open K-12 schools. Of this, $10 billion will be given to states specifically to support COVID-19 screenings for teachers and staff to create safe schools. Bless their nostrils.
The good news is the majority of school districts around the country are expected to open by the fall of 2021. If vaccines are administered as expected, New York, Washington DC, and Philadelphia schools have publicly announced they will be open to those who want to learn in-person starting in September.
California, on the other hand, is moving a bit faster. The Senate and Assembly Bill 86 approved $2 billion in funding for in-person classes starting April 1st.
Dubbed the “Safe Schools for All” plan, another $4.6 billion has been allocated to all school districts in California that have opened, and the funding will decrease by 1% per day starting May 1st for any unopened schools. Talk about incentives!
CDC Operational Strategy for K-12 Phased Prevention
The CDC wants to make it clear there are strategic efforts in place for those wondering: is it safe to go back to school yet? And for parents, is it is safe to send kids back to school?
The four key points the CDC included in their recent operational strategy include the following (summarized):
- Many schools have already safely opened using strict prevention strategies.
- The operational strategy will give schools strict prevention strategies such as correct use of masks and physical distancing.
- All schools should implement these strategies.
- Frequent testing and vaccinations are necessary for teachers and staff to prevent COVID-19 in schools.
Also the section “Engagement with educators, families, and school communities” states that in preparation for school openings, there should be plans for communication consistent with health equity standards that include everyone. That means administrators, custodial staff, teachers, nurses, parents, bus drivers, etc.
The “Prevention Strategies” section emphasizes the many hygienic and routine prevention practices we’ve been following since the beginning of the pandemic including wearing masks, handwashing, physical distancing, cleaning, and quarantining.
It’s noteworthy to mention the “universal and correct use of masks” is number one on this list, because it’s that critical.
We’ve already discussed how important it is to have the right type of face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s especially important that kids are wearing masks in schools even if they are vaccinated, and ORÅ recommends the most effective and best masks for kids at school.
ORÅ x Unibui Partnership
In response to schools reopening, ORÅ has partnered with Unibui, a student marketplace where you can sell or buy from other students.
The Unibui catalog is available to those in K-12 education as well as partnered colleges including San Jose State University and West Valley College. Unibui is available in 114 California community colleges with approximately 2.2 million students.
The catalog is approved by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and locally compliant in all 50 states. This marketplace saves student users $2,500 a year, on average. For students and parents on a budget buying kids masks for school, that’s a pretty penny.
ORÅ hopes to provide students with easy and affordable access to our masks with this partnership and help get them back to school as safely as possible.
Hopes for the Future
We hope that masks in combination with the vaccine will completely eliminate the risks of CODVID-19 transmission in schools and anywhere else. We believe education is imperative and students should have access to in-person learning safely.
According to the CDC, masks are essential, and our goal is to make them as available as possible until we are safe from the threat of coronavirus.