Duke Today

February 10, 2021

By Eric Ferreri

State leaders and education officials weighing whether to re-open schools are considering myriad factors, from infection rates to vaccine rollout to a reluctance on the part of both teachers and families.

Three Duke experts, including a pediatrics professor co-leading a National Institutes of Health-funded study on how to reopen schools safely, spoke to journalists Wednesday in a virtual media briefing. (Watch the briefing on YouTube)

On how a family’s personal experience influences an in-school decision

“People’s experiences over the last year may have differed significantly and that would impact their decision to choose in-person education or not. Some have thrived; some may not have thrived. Also, knowing and seeing people infected, hospitalized and dying from this disease may be different from seeing case numbers and numbers on TV or being somewhat removed from the overwhelming COVID information that has spread. That will impact how people will come back to school. It will impact how people will interpret school guidance.”

On importance of teachers being vaccinated

“It’s certainly important to include vaccinations as a part of the mitigation strategies to reduce the case burden in our communities and further reduce in-school transmission. We know education is already happening. The question is, can we come back in person in some settings?”

“We know that even prior to having the vaccines, we were able to see and experience in-person education safely. It would be a huge advantage to ensure that a larger proportion of those returning in person are vaccinated.”

On the importance of communicating data and facts

“Transparency works. There are some people that, no matter what you do, you can’t get through to them. But for the most part, people are looking for honest and consistent data or information about what’s happening in schools. And building back trust, if that wasn’t happening before, or solidifying trust.”

“Be as transparent as you can be around infections, around cases, when they happen, where the clusters are, who is impacted.”