Student Well-Being

White House Outlines Key COVID-Prevention Strategies for This School Year

By Libby Stanford — August 17, 2022 4 min read
A second grade student is given a COVID-19 rapid test at H.W. Harkness Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2022. As a new school year approaches, COVID-19 infections are again on the rise, fueled by highly transmissible variants, filling families with dread. They fear the return of a pandemic scourge: outbreaks that sideline large numbers of teachers, close school buildings and force students back into remote learning.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As students return to school for the third full year of pandemic-era learning, President Joe Biden’s administration is emphasizing robust vaccination and testing efforts as well as improved air quality to protect school communities from the COVID-19 virus.

The White House released a back-to-school fact sheet Aug. 16 with information on COVID-19 safety best practices and resources for districts as they begin another school year. The information came days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new COVID-19 guidance for schools, rolling back “test-to-stay” and quarantine requirements that guided school responses to the pandemic for the past two-plus years.

Under the new CDC guidance, schools are encouraged to let community considerations drive safety strategies, recommending masks only in areas with “high community levels” of virus spread. As of Aug. 11, 40 percent of counties, districts, or territories had a high level of the spread of COVID-19, according to the CDC.

In its fact sheet, the White House followed the CDC’s lead, de-emphasizing the importance of masking and quarantining and instead focusing on vaccinations, testing, and air quality as major prevention strategies.

“I’m confident that with the support of the American Rescue Plan and other federal resources, we can keep all our children, all across the country, safe, healthy, and learning on the road to success,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

Vaccines and boosters are a ‘first line of defense’

School districts should have a robust plan to ensure all teachers and students who want to be vaccinated can do so, the White House said.

Vaccines are available for everyone 6 months and older, and boosters are open to every person 5 years and older. The White House suggests districts use vaccines as the “first line of defense” against the virus by ensuring students, employees, and families know their options. (The CDC and White House guidance do not recommend requiring that students be vaccinated against the virus, but rather instruct districts to encourage students to get vaccinated.)

The Biden administration plans to work with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association to encourage members to get a COVID-19 booster this fall. The CDC has various resources, including a “Booster Tool,” a COVID-19 vaccines page, and,that all have information on who is eligible for boosters and how to access them. The AFT and NEA will also emphasize the importance of educators who are 50 or older getting their second booster if they have not done so.

The White House used the fact sheet as an opportunity to call on school districts to host vaccine clinics. Schools can use funding from the American Rescue Plan and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the costs of vaccine clinics, and the CDC published its own guide for schools planning vaccination clinics.

COVID-19 testing remains a key prevention strategy

In its new recommendations, the CDC scaled back testing guidance, removing the popular “test-to-stay” strategy, which allowed students to remain in class after being exposed to the virus if they undergo periodic testing. Instead, the health agency recommended diagnostic testing for anyone who is showing symptoms of the virus. It also recommended screening testing be used for high-risk activities, such as contact sports and early childhood education programs, for schools in areas with high community spread of the virus.

In its fact sheet, the White House emphasized testing as a strategy to protect students from the virus. The Biden administration plans to distribute 5 million over-the-counter rapid tests and 5 million swab PCR tests as well as additional point-of-care rapid tests to schools over the next year.

Districts can order the tests through January 2023, according to the fact sheet. Schools can also use funding from the CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity program, which provided $10 billion to K-12 schools to pay for tests, the fact sheet said.

Funding available to improve air quality

Schools are still able to use American Rescue Plan dollars to pay for air quality improvements in their buildings. According to the fact sheet, the funds can be used to cover the costs of inspections, repairs, upgrades, and replacements in HVAC systems. The money can also go toward air conditioners, fans, portable air cleaners, and germicidal UV light systems, as well as repairing windows and doors.

The administration plans to collaborate with HVAC professional associations to provide expert guidance and technical support to improve indoor air quality at schools.

The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Energy also plan to highlight school districts that are “excelling in efforts to improve indoor air quality” through the energy department’s “Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign” over the coming months. The departments plan to release criteria for recognition in the coming weeks, according to the fact sheet.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has a set of resources that schools can use to improve air quality, including its “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge” and a guide for indoor air quality in schools. The CDC provides air ventilation guidance through its interactive school ventilation tool.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Personalized Learning Webinar
Expanding Teacher Impact: Scaling Personalized Learning Across Districts
Explore personalized learning strategies that transform classrooms and empower educators.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being States Look to Social-Emotional Learning to Combat Student Misbehavior, Poor Mental Health
Experts say SEL can be a first line of defense against youth mental health problems and misbehavior, but political resistance continues.
6 min read
Image of happy and unhappy face symbols.
Student Well-Being LGBTQ+ Students Feel the Weight of a Push for Parents' Rights
States and local school boards are passing laws that specifically target LGBTQ+ youth. It's affecting those students' mental health.
7 min read
Illustration of a person hiding their face while jagged shapes and aggressive forms close in around them.
Iryna Vladymyrova/iStock
Student Well-Being Child Poverty in the U.S. Jumped in 2022 as Pandemic Benefits Ended
Child poverty in the United States more than doubled last year, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
4 min read
FILE - Jaqueline Benitez, who depends on California's SNAP benefits to help pay for food, shops for groceries at a supermarket in Bellflower, Calif., on Feb. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner, file)
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Help Students Try New Things
We all fear failure, the unknown, the suboptimal. Here’s how students can get past indecision.
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.