President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the secretary of education to create guidelines for colleges to safely reopen for in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order directs Secretary of Education nominee Miguel Cardona to work with the Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra to provide evidence-based guidance which takes into account a university's setting, resources, and the population it serves. The signing of the "Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers” on Thursday coincides with the release of Biden's new 200-page COVID-19 response strategy, Inside Higher Ed reported.
The strategy document outlines plans to support schools, colleges, and businesses in safely reopening while supporting workers, as one of its seven goals. Biden also proposed $35 billion in additional stimulus funds for colleges.
The Department of Education will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct outreach to universities and ensure they have the latest, evidence-based recommendations regarding when and how to reopen, Inside Higher Ed reported.
“Given the diversity of settings in which colleges operate and the diversity of services they offer, postsecondary institutions need detailed guidance on recommended COVID-19 protocols that covers a variety of scenarios,” the strategy document states.
The order specifically directs the Department of Education to create a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to share information regarding reopening. It also directs the Department's Office for Civil Rights to draft a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students, Inside Higher Ed reported.
Penn reopened its campus to students in January, but the majority of undergraduate classes are being taught online. Since Jan. 3, the University has reported a 1.06% prevalence rate, representing the proportion of Penn community members who have tested positive for COVID-19.