policy education schools

Considerations for School Closure

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By Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Updated March 31, 2020

Considerations for School Closure
Recommendations on school closure based on available science, reports from other countries and
consultation with school health experts.
1. There is a role for school closure in response to school-based cases of COVID-19 for decontamination and contact
tracing (few days of closure), in response to significant absenteeism of staff and students (short to medium
length, i.e. 2-4 weeks of closure), or as part of a larger community mitigation strategy for jurisdictions with
substantial community spread* (medium to long length, i.e. 4-8 weeks or more of closure).
2. Available modeling data indicate that early, short to medium closures do not impact the epi curve of COVID-19 or
available health care measures (e.g., hospitalizations). There may be some impact of much longer closures (8
weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread, but that modelling also shows that other mitigation efforts
(e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and health care measures. In
other countries, those places who closed school (e.g., Hong Kong) have not had more success in reducing spread
than those that did not (e.g., Singapore).
3. In places where school closures are necessary, the anticipated academic and economic impacts and unintended
impacts on disease outcomes must be planned for and mitigated. Provision of academic support (e.g., tele-ed),
alternatives for school-based meals as well as other services (e.g., behavioral and mental health services) for
economically and physically vulnerable children, support for families for whom telework and paid sick leave is not
available, ensuring that high risk individuals continue to be protected must all be addressed. Special consideration
must be given for health care workers so that school closures do not impact their ability to work. Factors for Consideration for School Closure
Closing schools early in the spread of disease for a short time (e.g., 2 weeks) will be unlikely to stem the spread of disease or prevent impact on the
health care system, while causing significant disruption for families, schools, and those who may be responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in health care
settings. It may also increase impact on older adults who care for grandchildren. Waiting to enact school closures until at the correct time in the
epidemic (e.g., later in the spread of disease) combined with other social distancing interventions allows for optimal impact despite disruption.
Factors in favor of school closure Factors against school closure Further considerations
In response to
school-based
case
(Less than 1
week closure)
• Impact on disease
o Allows for decontamination
o Allows time for epidemical
evaluation and contact tracing;
further action can be scaled based
on epi investigation.
• Impact on disease
o Social mixing may still occur outside
of school with less ability to
monitor, especially among older
students.
• May occur frequently during a widespread outbreak
Short-term
(2 weeks
closure)
• Impact on disease
o Allows time for further
understanding of the local COVID-19
situation (e.g., community spread)
o Increases social distancing amongst
immediate school community.
o Gives time for potentially exposed
individuals to develop symptoms
while not in school
• Impact on families
o Children may be less impacted by
social isolation from their peers for
shorter time frames
• Impact on school
o Schools are better prepared for shortterm closures because they’ve been
more likely to have experienced those
(e.g., for weather)
o Given current timing, some schools
may be able to take advantage of
spring break closures
• Impact on disease
o Modeling data for other respiratory
infections where children have
higher disease impacts, suggests
that early short-term closures are
not impactful in terms of overall
transmission.
o Social mixing may still occur
outside of school with less ability
to monitor, especially among older
students.
o Will increase risk to older adults or
those with co-morbidities, as
almost 40% of US grandparents
provide childcare for
grandchildren. School closures will
likely increase this percentage.
• Impact on families
o Key services are interrupted for
students (e.g., meals, other social,
• Disproportionate impact of children
being out of school whose
parents/family members are hourly
and low-wage workers
• Research from school staff tells us that
schools find closures more acceptable
when other events, gatherings, and
facilities in the community are also
closed or cancelled.
• Concerns about household mixing of
sick and well family members needs to
be addressed
• Consider non-closure social distancing
first (e.g., staggering recess, cancelling
assemblies and inter-school events.)
• Economic impact if school staff are not
paid during school closure must be
considered.
o Provides protection for older staff and
students and staff with underlying
medical conditions
physical health, and mental health
services, after school programs)
o Economic impact for families
because of the costs of childcare
and lost wages. There may be a
loss of productivity even for
parents who are able to telework.
o Some families may not have
capacity for students to participate
in distance learning (e.g., no
computers, internet access issues)
even if provided by school.
• Impact on schools
o Potential academic impact because
of the disruption to the continuity
of learning
• Impact on health care
o Available health care workforce is
decreased as HCW stay home with
children.
Medium-term
(4 weeks
closure)
• Impact on disease
o Provides more protection for older
staff and students and staff with
underlying medical conditions
• Impact on schools
o Planned closures of longer periods
may be easier for families to plan for
than rolling closures with
unexpected timing and duration,
including possibly last-minute notice
• Impact on disease
o Longer closures may result in more
students congregating outside of
school (e.g., other students’
homes, shopping malls)
o Will increase risk to older adults or
those with co-morbidities, as
almost 40% of US grandparents
provide childcare for
grandchildren. School closures will
likely increase this percentage.
• Impact on families
o Students who rely on key services
(e.g., meals, other social, physical
health, and mental health services,
after school programs) are put at
greater risk
• Disproportionate impact of children
being out of school whose
parents/family members are hourly
and low-wage workers
• If a school closes for this length of
time, schools must consider ways to
continue key services
• Research from school staff tells us that
schools find closures more acceptable
when other events, gatherings, and
facilities in the community are also
closed or cancelled.
• Consider coupling with other social
actions to mitigate risk of increased
social mixing in other community
areas
o Economic impact grows with length
of closure; furthermore, this may
exacerbate disparities among
families at different SES levels (e.g.,
parents with lower wage jobs may
lose jobs)
o High school seniors likely to lose
ability to participate in their prom,
graduation etc.
o Some families may not have
capacity for students to participate
in distance learning (e.g., no
computers, internet access issues)
even if provided by school.
• Impact on schools
o Significant impact on academic
outcomes may occur. Losing one
month of learning may prevent
students from meeting grade level
knowledge and skill expectations
and may jeopardize schools’ ability
to meet standardized testing
requirements
o School staff may be differentially
impacted (e.g., hourly workers may
be less able to sustain longer
closures)
• Impact on health care
o Available health care workforce is
decreased as HCW stay home with
children.
• Because closures are likely to increase
anxiety among students, families, and
community members, excellent
messaging is needed along with the
school closure.
• Economic impact if school staff are not
paid during school closure must be
considered.
Long-term
(8 weeks, 20
weeks closure)
• Impact on disease
o Modeling data for other respiratory
infections where children have
higher disease impacts, suggests
that longer closures are may have
greater impact in terms of overall
• Impact on disease
o Longer closures may result in more
students congregating outside of
school (e.g., other students’
homes, shopping malls)
• Disproportionate impact of children
being out of school for hourly and lowwage workers (compared to salaried
workers who may have more flexible
leave and telework opportunities)
transmission. Provides substantial
protection for older staff and
students and staff with underlying
medical conditions
• Impact on schools
o Schools without distance learning
may see closures of this length as
reason to implement distance
learning approaches they may not
have previously had or used
o Will increase risk to older adults or
those with co-morbidities, as
almost 40% of US grandparents
provide childcare for
grandchildren. School closures will
likely increase this percentage.
• Impact on families
o Students who rely on key services
(e.g., meals, other social, physical
health, and mental health services,
after school programs) are put at
substantial risk
o Economic impact grows with length
of closure; furthermore, this may
exacerbate disparities among
families at different SES levels (e.g.,
parents with lower wage jobs may
lose jobs)
o Student engagement with schools
and peers diminishes, which could
increase anxiety and other mental
health and emotional problems.
o High school seniors likely to lose
ability to participate in their prom,
graduation etc.
• Impact on schools
o Significant impact on academic
outcomes will likely occur; losing 2
months of learning is likely to
prevent many students from
meeting grade level knowledge and
skill expectations and will
jeopardize schools’ ability to meet
standardized testing requirements
o Loss of educational progress, even
having to add an extra semester or
• If a school closes for this length of
time, schools must consider ways to
continue key services
• Research from school staff tells us that
schools find closures more acceptable
when other events, gatherings, and
facilities in the community are also
closed or cancelled.
• Because closures are likely to increase
anxiety among students, families, and
community members, excellent
messaging is needed along with the
school closure.
• Given current timing, 20-week
closures may not impact schools much
more substantially than 8 week
closures. Many schools end for the
year in late May; some continue until
mid-June.
• A 20-week scenario could still have
substantial impact on parents who
need to find summer care for
students. If schools are dismissed, one
would expect summer camps might be
cancelled as well
• Economic impact if school staff are not
paid during school closure must be
considered.
year to graduate or move up a
grade
o Staff within the schools may be
differentially impacted (e.g., hourly
workers may be less able to sustain
longer closures)
o Maintaining communication with
school staff, families, and students
becomes substantially more
difficult as the school closure
lengthens.
• Impact on health care
o Available health care workforce is
decreased as HCW stay home with
children.
Points for further consideration, regardless of degree of spread or length of potential closure
• Clear rationale, decision-making and communication with all stakeholders is extremely important. Families need to know who is making
decisions, what those decisions are and when school-based mitigation efforts are planned to start and end.
• While we have data that can contribute to decisions about when to dismiss schools, there is almost no available data on the right time to re-start
schools. We would advise to plan for a length of time and then evaluate based on continued community spread.
• The relationship between state and local education agencies and state and local public health must be strong and communication must be clear
and thorough.
• Critical academic infrastructure and service provision must be considered during school closure. 

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