As vaccine distribution accelerates reopening, schools across the country are preparing to return to full-time, in-person learning next school year. But how well do COVID safety measures in the classroom protect students, teachers, and their families from the virus? Here’s a breakdown of the research.
While relatively few schools experienced widescale outbreaks during the pandemic, the return to full-time, in-person instruction will inevitably increase students’ exposure to the coronavirus.
But the number and kind of protections schools put in place now can make a big difference in the risk that those students will bring the illness home to family members, according to a study published last month in the journal Science. Even as more adults and older students become vaccinated, the study suggests no one safety measure will be a silver bullet when it comes to preventing COVID-19.
“When we talk about the risks from in-person schooling, our tendency is to think about it in terms of risk of transmission in the classroom,” said Justin Lessler, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But really there are a whole host of activities that go along with in-person schooling, including the transport to and from school. All of the ancillary activities can have as much impact on transmission as what’s going on in the classroom. So when we think about school, we should be thinking about the whole picture.”