Federal Government to Issue Additional COVID-19 Guidance for Colleges and Universities

January 22, 2021

By: Philip J. Zaccheo

Yesterday, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers. Among other things, the executive order instructs the U.S. Department of Education to develop and provide “evidence-based guidance to institutions of higher education on safely re-opening for in person learning,” as well as related advice to institutions on matters including distance and other means of delivering curricular content, and the promotion of mental health and social-emotional well-being. In developing its guidance, the Department is directed to consult with institutional officials, students, educators, unions and families. 

In addition, the executive order:

  • directs the Department to develop a “Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse” to facilitate the sharing among institutions of experiences and best practices for operating safely during the pandemic;
  • directs the Office for Civil Rights to deliver a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students, including those attending historically black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions; 
  • directs the Department to coordinate with the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences to facilitate the collection of data necessary to fully understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators; and
  • directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance and support to ensure that State, local, Tribal and territorial contact tracing is available to enable the reopening and safe operation of institutions.

Although the specific results of this executive order are as yet unknown, institutions will want to monitor the forthcoming announcements, guidance and/or directives closely. 

If you have any questions, please contact any attorney in our Higher Education practice or the attorney at the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.