(WTAJ) — The U.S. Department of Education released the “Return to School Roadmap,” a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to in-person learning this fall.

Over the course of the next several weeks as schools reopen nationwide, the Roadmap will lay out strategies to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance for K-12 schools, so that schools can minimize transmission and sustain in-person learning all school-year long. 

While the CDC and Pennsylvania Dept. of Health strongly suggest for schools to make students, faculty, and staff wear masks, ultimately it will be up to schools in the commonwealth to decide what they want to do.

The Roadmap includes three “Landmark” priorities that schools, districts, and communities are encouraged to focus on to ensure all students are set up for success in the 2021-2022 school year. These include:

  • Prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff, and educators
  • Building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health
  • Accelerating academic achievement.

As part of the Roadmap, the Department will release resources for practitioners and parents on each of these priorities and will highlight schools and districts that are using innovative practices to address these priorities.  

Last week, the President called on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks. The Administration also directed pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize this and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.

As part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released: 

  • fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three “Landmark” priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways. 
  • A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance.  
  • checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated.  

Over the coming weeks, the Department will provide additional resources to schools, districts, and directly to parents and students as part of the Return to School Roadmap. This includes: 

  • Working with partners across the federal government to provide support to schools and districts and answer questions about expanding access to vaccinations for students 12+ and implementing CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance. 
  • Holding town halls with parents and parent organizations to highlight ways schools and districts are preparing to keep students safe during in-person learning and underscoring the importance of providing social, emotional, and mental health supports for students in addition to academic supports in our schools. 
  • Releasing implementation tools for schools, educators, and parents to address the three priority areas of health and safety; student wellbeing; and academics — in areas ranging from supporting schools in their efforts to address lost instructional and extracurricular time to providing information on how American Rescue Plan funds can be used to expand access to mental health supports for our nation’s students and educators, and provide additional academic supports.
  • Updating Volumes 1 and 2 of the Department of Education’s COVID-19 Handbooks to reflect the recently updated CDC K-12 guidance.  

Secretary Cardona and other Department officials will be traveling across the country to feature priorities from the Roadmap and highlight schools and communities as they prepare to welcome their students back this fall.

In addition to releasing the Roadmap, the Department has: 

  • Issued three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook to support K-12 schools and institutions of higher education in their reopening efforts.  
  • Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers.  
  • Published a Safer Schools and Best Practices Clearinghouse, which includes over 200 examples of schools and communities safely returning to in-person learning.
  • Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
  • Provided $122 billion in support through the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for K-12 schools.
  • Released over $3 billion in IDEA funds within the American Rescue Plan to support children and families with disabilities impacted by the pandemic.
  • Released $800 million within the American Rescue Plan to support students experiencing homelessness who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
  • Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved students.
  • Launched an Equity Summit Series focused on addressing school and district inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic.
  • Provided nearly $40 billion in funding for institutions of higher education within the American Rescue Plan, about half of which will provide direct aid to students at postsecondary institutions. 

The Secretary will also participate in a “Return to School Road Trip” in the fall, visiting schools and districts welcoming students back to in-person learning and successfully implementing the priorities within the Roadmap.  

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