Ron Avi Astor: Reopening Schools in the COVID-19 Era

UCLA professor of social welfare reveals need for more resources and staff to serve students in real and virtual classrooms and at home.

Ron Avi Astor, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, has published a research brief on “Opening Schools Safely in the COVID-19 Era: School Social Workers’ Experiences and Recommendations,” in collaboration with partners from Loyola University Chicago, CSU Fullerton and Hebrew University.

The brief includes findings from a survey of 1,275 social workers across the United States, and calls for quick and timely action and investment by elected officials and other leaders to support the nation’s schools. 

Along with concerns about remote learning platforms and physical distancing on campuses, the social workers reported that students and families are struggling to meet their most basic needs during the pandemic, including food, housing, and health care.

“The national dialogue on reopening schools is not focused on this right now, but the social workers are telling us loud and clear that meeting basic human needs for a large number of students is the big issue schools face in the fall,” says Professor Astor in an article on the UCLA Luskin School’s website.

The brief calls for the creation of a national rapid-response team including teachers, administrators, medical professionals, counselors, psychologists and social workers to guide schools as they make decisions regarding in-person, online, or hybrid learning models. The report also recommends that a national technical assistance center be created to help any school adjust its procedures if needed, and that a large workforce of social workers, nurses, psychologists and other professionals is needed in schools that serve low-income and minority students.

The report’s authors noted that their findings come amid calls for systemic change spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement, and that school professionals need to locate and reengage the large number of students nationwide who rarely checked in to virtual classrooms this spring. 

Professor Astor will participate in two webinars by the National Center for School Safety at the University of Michigan. These sessions are part of a series of three webinars to foster a holistically positive school climate for the 2020-2021 school year while addressing concerns related to COVID-19 and racial unrest, and aimed to inform and support parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, law enforcement, and mental health professionals. For more information, visit this link.

To read the full article, visit the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs website.

To read the research brief on, “Opening Schools Safely in the COVID-19 Era: School Social Workers’ Experiences and Recommendations,” visit this link.