Under the guidance, K-12 institutions and school systems must start with an evaluation of levels of community transmission.
On February 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance, Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation, that updates previously released guidance from September 2020.
The new guidance continues to prioritize controlling the spread of COVID-19, but “leans into” reopening by stating that:
K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely. This implies that decision-makers and communities should prioritize schools for reopening and remaining open for in-person instruction over nonessential businesses and activities including indoor dining, bars, social gatherings, and close contact sports as community transmission is controlled.
The guidance is relevant to both public and private K-12 institutions, and includes updated sections on Essential Elements of Safe K-12 Operations for In-Person Learning; Health Equity Considerations; Mitigation strategies to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools; Indicators of Community Transmission; Phased mitigation, learning modes, and testing; Testing; and Vaccination for teachers and staff, and in communities as soon as supply allows.
Under the guidance, K-12 institutions and school systems must start with an evaluation of levels of community transmission. Ultimately, the decision is a risk management-based one, guided by available information, stakeholder input and awareness of legal obligations.
As schools and systems further develop their reopening plans, they must evaluate their obligations under applicable federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the National Labor Relations Act as well as state and local health orders and other orders and guidance from the CDC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other agencies that may regulate school, workplace and employment policies. Schools must also take steps to ensure that their policies are implemented in a nondiscriminatory manner. At the conclusion of this Alert are links to prior Duane Morris Alerts discussing some of these laws and policies.
About Duane Morris
Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team to help schools, school districts, colleges and universities and other employers plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.
For More Information
If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Lisa T. Scruggs, Linda B. Hollinshead, any of the attorneys in our Education Industry Group, attorneys in our Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.
Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.