• Schools are reopening for in-person and virtual learning, but there's still uncertainty on how it can be done safely.
  • Economist Emily Oster and a team of researchers are setting out to provide school leaders and policymakers with information on how schools are reopening. 
  • The team will survey public, private, independent, charter, and Catholic schools to gather baseline data that will be available to the public. 
  • Teachers, principals, and school leaders can volunteer to participate in bi-weekly surveys. 
  • Sign up for our new parenting newsletter Insider Parenting here.

As schools across the country start the academic year, there is still uncertainty when it comes to how — and if — they can reopen safely. 

Emily Oster, an American economist and professor at Brown University, noticed a lack of data on COVID-19 in schools, so she's setting out to fill that gap.

Oster partnered with a team of researchers and students at Brown, MIT, Harvard, and Mass General to launch COVID-Explained, a site dedicated to answering questions about the novel coronavirus. 

Now, the team is building a national COVID-19 school response dashboard to collect data that will help policymakers and school leaders make evidence-based decisions on how to reopen safely and stay open through the academic year. 

The COVID-Explained team will survey schools and collect data as the year progresses, looking at things like community spread, the precautions schools are taking, and age groups, to determine what factors contribute to a safe reopening. 

Students walk to their class at Weaverville Elementary School in Weaverville, California.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

This will be a robust dashboard focused on COVID-19 in schools across the country

School leaders and districts will volunteer to participate in a baseline survey, as well as a short, five-question survey every two weeks. 

According to the COVID-Explained website, the initial survey will take 10 to 15 minutes and "asks about school enrollment and staffing numbers, opening plans (hybrid/remote/in-person), and a small number of questions on COVID-19 precautions."

The bi-weekly surveys will focus on three main things: the school's enrollment model; the number of in-person students and staff members; and confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases.

The data will be anonymized on a county-level and will be made available to the public on September 21. 

The team will monitor a variety of schools, including public, private, independent, charter, and Catholic schools. Additionally, schools that are reopening for virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning are encouraged to participate.

How your school can participate

Superintendents can complete the initial survey here, and individual schools interested in participating can enroll here. 

The dashboard is being created in collaboration with The School Superintendents Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Qualtrics.

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