The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines to help schools across the country phase back into in-person learning.
The new guidelines are organized into four different learning modes based on the level of community transmission. For schools within areas of low to moderate transmission levels, the CDC recommends that full in-person learning be available for all K-12 students. At the substantial and high transmission levels, elementary students should still be able to attend in-person class through a hybrid model, the CDC says. Middle and high school students should be in hybrid learning at the substantial transmission level and virtual learning at the high transmission level unless they have the ability to strictly enforce all mitigation strategies and have few COVID-19 cases within the school.
School foodservice guidelines were also updated. The CDC recommends that school nutrition professionals continue to wear masks during their shifts and breaks, except when eating. For meals eaten at school, districts should try to have students eat meals outside or in well-ventilated areas, such as near open windows, and should also implement additional mitigation measures such as serving individually wrapped meals, using disposable servingware and installing hand sanitizer stations as well as no-touch trash bins.
For meals eaten away from school, the CDC recommends that multiple meals for the week be offered at once and include instructions on how to safely store and eat the food at home. School staff, students and parents should continue to wear masks and stay least six feet apart from others when picking up meals. During curbside meal pickup and mobile route delivery, staff should use carts or large trays to pass meals to students and families. Schools using home meal delivery should set up a delivery time range to allow parents and students to know when to expect the meals, and alert parents and students when the meals have been delivered.
The CDC recommends that all schools, regardless of their community transmission level, implement universal mask wearing and other mitigation measures such as social distancing, hand washing, frequent cleaning of surfaces, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.
Teachers and school staff, including foodservice employees. should also have access to a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as supply allows, although the CDC says a vaccine is not needed to return to in-person school.