Some districts have opened buildings while keeping Covid cases far lower than national averages. Here’s how they did it.


It’s impossible to overstate how controversial school reopening has become in the U.S. this past year. After a spring of universal Zoom school, the country diverged: some administrators, parents, and scientists were determined to get kids back in classrooms, while others prioritized Covid-19 safety above all else.

The divided communities made the news — but not all U.S. schools were fighting grounds. In fact, many districts managed to bring the majority of their students back into classrooms without breeding a Covid-19 outbreak. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network, the COVID-19 Data Dispatch investigated what worked in several communities where the majority of the district’s students returned to in-person learning during the 2020-2021 school year — and under 5 percent of the student population was identified as a Covid-19 case. Read about the data analysis and how the school districts were chosen. — Betsy Ladyzhets

How schools that kept Covid cases low are battling new variants

Scott County School District 1 in Austin, Indiana reopened for the fall semester with optional face masks, less distancing in classrooms and no remote option. District leaders quickly realized they had relaxed the Covid safety rules too soon. Within the month of August, the district would record 65 Covid-19 cases among students — more than…

11 lessons from schools that kept Covid cases low

In the COVID-19 Data Dispatch’s “Opening” series, we profiled five school communities that successfully reopened during the 2020-2021 school year. In each one, the majority of the district’s or school’s students returned to in-person learning by the end of the spring semester — and officials identified Covid-19 cases in under 5 percent of the student…

Facemasks donated by district parents in Port Orford-Langlois.

How the local public library helped one school district cope with Covid

In Port Orford, Oregon, it’s a quick walk from the elementary and middle school building to the town library—the two buildings are right down the street from each other. In fact, the town library and school are linked by more than geography, since the school district’s two libraries became part of the Port Orford library…

An Appalachian county kept school Covid cases down with strong community partnerships

It’s difficult to get good internet access in Garrett County, Maryland. The county lies in the Appalachian Mountains, full of peaks and ridges, trees and rivers. This geography blocks signals and slows internet speeds, even for Garrett County residents who do have a router at home. And the county’s southern edge meets the National Radio…

Relying on personal responsibility to prevent Covid spread in schools

On July 28, 2020, before the start of fall extracurriculars, Andrews Independent School District held a town hall in the high school auditorium. Parents and community members came from across the county to grill the district administrators on their reopening plans. While some parents wanted the details on safety measures, others were more concerned about…