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More Comprehensive State Guidance Can Support the Whole Child during COVID-19 (

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As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, students continue to face significant challenges to their mental and physical health. In an April 2020 survey from Active Minds, 60 percent of high school students reported that their mental health has worsened during the pandemic. Pandemic-related school closures have also caused many students to lose access to necessary school-based health services. Students with disabilities and special health care needs, who may heavily rely on services typically provided at school, are even more likely to experience disruptions to needed health care as a result of COVID-19. Further, many students are no longer receiving crucial school nutrition services. Among households with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, only 15 percent regularly receive school meals during COVID-19 school closures. As districts work to address these challenges while simultaneously grappling with difficult reopening decisions, many are looking to state education agencies for guidance.

The challenges students face during COVID-19 demand thoughtful coordination between education and health agencies. A coordinated approach to school health that incorporates all facets of student well-being is critical for states looking to provide districts with holistic guidance for supporting students across a range of physical and mental health needs. All states have released recommendations for reopening schools, many of which address various aspects of student health and well-being. However, these recommendations include gaps in both the comprehensiveness and specificity of guidance with respect to how schools should support the whole child during the pandemic.


Emily Fulks,Sara Anderson,Asiya Kazi,Sarah Her,Alexander Gabriel

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