Lessons Learned from COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed gaps in school emergency operations plans (EOPs) that should guide updates in preparation for future emergencies. It has also emphasized the importance of in-person learning for physical, mental, and social health; educational outcomes; and childcare.

COVID-19 highlighted lessons learned

Before an Emergency

  • Public health agencies and schools should develop and maintain partnerships before an emergency occurs.
  • Public health agencies and schools should work together to build interoperable data systems to share information about infectious disease outbreaks and impacts, as well as school learning modality status.
  • School EOPs should include preparation for both short-term and long-term emergencies.
image of teachers work together in the classroom

During an Emergency

Image of teachers and students wearing masks and talking
  • Depending on the characteristics of the infectious disease, public health agencies and schools should work together to safely keep schools open as much as possible.
  • Public health agencies and schools should ensure equity when deciding which interventions to implement. Health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible and requires multi-sectoral efforts to address health disparities by expanding access and removing the social and economic obstacles that lead to poor health outcomes. This may include considering how resources for implementing interventions will be distributed throughout the school district.
  • Public health agencies and schools should share best practices and concerns with each other locally, regionally, and nationally, depending on the scope of the emergency.
  • Public health agencies should consider multiple factors that affect a school’s ability to implement interventions (e.g., supply chain, contractor availability, and community values and perceptions).
  • Public health interventions should balance the impact of the threat with the impact of the intervention on children and staff, including those who are at higher risk.
  • When an emergency begins, public health agencies should work with schools to identify their needs and provide relevant information.
  • When schools must close or switch to remote learning, they should identify ways to safely continue providing health and social services to students.

After an Emergency

  • It is important for public health agencies and schools to identify strengths and weaknesses of their response to an emergency and update their EOP accordingly.
Image of tablet to evaluate the plan

  1. Why Prepare
  2. How to Prepare
  3. After an Emergency
  4. Lessons Learned from COVID-19