Last reviewed: August 19, 2021
On this page:
As K-12 and early education students in many areas across the U.S. return to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year, recommendations from pediatrics experts and updated CDC guidance informed by emerging data can help parents, teachers, students and school communities enhance classroom safety.
It is important to remember that vaccination is the most effective public health strategy to reduce COVID-19 infections inside and outside of school settings, and that COVID-19 vaccines are available and CDC-recommended for everyone aged 12 and older.
A number of US and international studies on risk mitigation strategies in the school setting were performed during the 2020-2021 school year. These studies showed that until vaccination is widely available for all school-age children, masking, physical distancing, improved ventilation, handwashing, contact tracing with quarantine and isolation and testing are important layers of prevention to reduce infection. Together, layered prevention strategies can be highly effective in reducing infection spread in the school setting (Falk, January 2021; Hershow, March 2021; Varma, May 2021).
There are a number of limitations to research performed during the 2020-2021 school year, before the highly contagious Delta variant became the predominant variant of COVID-19. Due to the rise in cases due to the Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all students, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status. Additionally, even fully vaccinated students, staff or teachers with a known exposure to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure, regardless of symptoms.
In addition to considering CDC guidance, schools must comply with any federal, state, local, territorial or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations that may be applicable.