Resources for School Recovery after COVID-19 Closures

May 2020

Schools have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know much uncertainty exists in all aspects related to this crisis, including the process of recovery as schools begin resuming activities. Recovery will take time and should be considered in a holistic manner given the scope of processes, people, and places affected by COVID-19. United Nations estimates indicate that in April 2020, school closures affected more than 91% of the world’s student population.1 Below we discuss multifaceted ways of thinking about recovery in schools, provide resources2 for educators, and highlight considerations knowing the speed of recovery will not be uniform across student populations. We encourage educators and administrators to openly communicate about recovery, be realistic about the challenges they and their district face, and exercise patience in moving forward.

We encourage educators and administrators to openly communicate about recovery, be realistic about the challenges they and their district face, and exercise patience in moving forward.


Recovery is a process to provide guidance for how to assess and manage short, medium, and long-term recovery efforts after major disaster events. Recovery is sometimes included as an annex in a multi-hazard emergency operations plan (EOP) or simply conceived and implemented as a standalone plan. EOP basic plans and annexes focus on prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response to an event, and possibly small elements of recovery. A recovery annex or standalone plan details how to overcome crisis situations and post-event actions taken to return to normalcy.3 Recovery annexes and standalone plans often consider four fundamental kinds of recovery for school environments: academic, physical, fiscal, and psychological and emotional.4-5


Academic recovery often focuses on alternative education formats when classrooms are inaccessible or other kinds of educational programming are preferable. These may start as part of the response to an event, such as COVID-19, or as an element of a continuity of operations plan (COOP) and become part of the ongoing recovery plan. One important reason for considering alternative education formats is the understanding of how long it may take for students to catch-up with their studies after major disaster events occur in which learning stops. While the disaster event may only last months, research after major weather events and in war-torn countries has shown that it can take considerable time for students to make up the lost time in classrooms, as well as adjust emotionally and economically afterwards.6-8


Physical recovery concentrates on several aspects. First, schools must maintain relationships and communicate with other institutions and business entities to resume regular operations. These entities include utility companies, insurance companies, and other business partners that ensure regular operations and must be contacted to assess how payment, timeline, and deadline changes will be managed.4-5 Second, schools need to consider “high-touch areas” for infection spread, advocate for increased personal hygiene, and manage infection control within their buildings.9-10 Increasing awareness of symptoms and effective prevention strategies for students will further increase student likelihood of taking steps to prevent infection.11 Third, it is valuable to have a nurse, medical staff member, or other employee(s) responsible for sharing information about student illness concerns as they arise so that information may be acted upon in real-time as the situation warrants.12


Communication is integral to fiscal recovery.13 There needs to be communication to determine what school emergency relief funding is necessary to request, and what is available at the state and federal level.14-15 Information must be shared with school leadership and district leadership as necessary, and the dissemination of resources is important. It is also extremely important to document all labor and expenses associated with the disaster. Disaster funding and reimbursement is directly tied to the ability to demonstrate associated costs.

Mental health needs after a disaster should be addressed as part of recovery.

Psychological and Emotional

Psychological and emotional recovery often focuses on identifying students and staff who need crisis counseling or are otherwise exhibiting signs that they are struggling with the adjustments after major trauma.16-17 Mental health needs after a disaster should be addressed as part of recovery.5 Utilize staff members who have training in trauma or grief-informed programs, such as Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S). PFA-S is an evidence-based intervention model for helping students, families, and staff cope with trauma-related distress.18-19 The training allows individuals to better identify and correct problematic cognitive, behavioral, or physical reactions that others exhibit. It may be beneficial to address positive coping mechanisms and maintain an open dialogue about stress as it is commonly experienced after traumatic events and the effects of stress can be long-lasting.20-22

Narrowing the Student Achievement Gap After COVID-19

Student Inequality and COVID-19 Slide

Not all students have access to the same resources, so some students are at a greater disadvantage when they spend extended periods of time away from school.23-25 Similar to "summer slide," time away from school during the COVID-19 pandemic will impact student achievement and contribute to the achievement gap. There are resources for helping to identify and solve classroom problems, as well as resources for narrowing the achievement gap by creating equity in the classroom.26-28

Similar to ‘summer slide,’ time away from school during the COVID-19 pandemic will impact student achievement and contribute to the achievement gap.

Impact of Trauma on Student Achievement

Some students will be traumatized by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is imperative that schools are trauma-informed. The impact of trauma on psychological well-being and academic growth is well documented.29-31 Resources can assist educators with identifying and managing trauma in the classroom and learning how to help others cope with trauma.32-33

School Response

Students will experience and respond to the stresses of COVID-19 differently. Upon their return to school, many students will carry traumatic stress with them. Fortunately, there are ways that educators can help students recover from traumatic stress, and resources for schools during and following COVID-19.34-35

Downloadable Resources


1UNESCO (2020). COVID-19 educational disruption and response. Retrieved from

2Texas School Safety Center (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Texas School Safety Center. Retrieved from

3Texas School Safety Center (n.d.). High-Quality multi-hazard emergency operations plan (EOP) Toolkit: 1.4, Planning Templates. Retrieved from

4Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) (n.d.). Recovery annex. Retrieved from

5U.S. Department of Education (2013). Guide for developing high-quality school emergency operations plans. Retrieved from

6Kamenetz, A. (2020). 9 out of 10 children are out of school worldwide. What now? National Public Radio. Retrieved from

7Harris, D. N. & Larsen, M. F. (2019). The effects of the New Orleans post-Katrina market-based school reforms on medium-term student outcomes. Education Research Alliance for New Orleans. Retrieved from

8Mattina, G. L. (2018). How persistent is the effect of conflict on primary education? Long-run evidence from the Rwandan genocide. Economics Letters, 163, 32-35.

9Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Retrieved from

10Rose, L. & Westinghouse, C. (2010). Cleaning for healthier schools – Infection control handbook. California Department of Public Health. Retrieved from

11Romine, W. L., Filk, W. R., Barrow, L. H. (2017). How does knowledge of influenza reduce flu-like illness in high schools. Health Behavior and Policy Review, 4(3), 224-234.

12U.S. Department of Education (2007). Lessons learned from school crises and emergencies: Managing an infectious disease outbreak in a school. Retrieved from

13Howat, H., Curtis, N., Landry, S., Farmer, K., Kroll, T. & Douglass, J. (2012). Lessons from crises recovery in schools: How hurricanes impacted schools, families, and the community. School Leadership & Management, 32(5), 487-501.

14Texas Education Agency (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Guidance. Retrieved from

15U.S. Department of Education (2020). Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos authorizes new funding flexibilities to support continued learning during COVID-19 national emergency. Retrieved from

16Texas Education Agency (n.d.). Mental health Resources: School personnel training and classroom resources. Retrieved from

17Schreiber, M., Gurwitch, R. & Wong, M. (2006). Listen, protect, and connect – model & teach; Psychological first aid for children. The Advertising Council in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved from

18Hechanova, M. R., Manaois, J. O. & Masuda, H. V. (2019). Evaluation of an organization-based psychological first aid intervention. Disaster Prevention and Management, 28(3), 401-411.

19Lee, J. S., You, S., Choi, Y. K., Youn, H. Y., & Shin, H. S. (2017). A preliminary evaluation of the training effects of a didactic and simulation-based psychological first aid program in students and school counselors in South Korea. PLOS One, 12(7), 1-13.

20Ornell, F., Schuch, J. B., Sordi, A. O., Kessler, F. H. (2020). “Pandemic fear” and COVID-19: Mental health burden and strategies. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. Doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2020-0008.

21Texas School Safety Center (2020). March 2020 newsletter: How to reduce testing stress for a safe and productive spring semester. Retrieved from

22Li, D. & Sullivan, W. C. (2016). Impact of views to school landscapes on recovery from stress and mental fatigue. Landscape and Urban Planning, 148, 149-158.

23Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson, L. S. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72(2), 167-180.

24Becker, B. E., & Luthar, S. S. (2002). Social-emotional factors affecting achievement outcomes among disadvantaged students: Closing the achievement gap. Educational Psychologist, 37(4), 197-214.

25Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227-268.

26Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching (n.d.). Teaching problem solving. Retrieved from

27U.S. Department of Education (2005). Closing the achievement gap: Lessons from successful schools. Retrieved from

28Hanover Research (2017). Closing the gap: Creating equity in the classroom. Retrieved from

29Blitz, L. V., Anderson, E. M., & Saastamoinen, M. (2016). Assessing perceptions of culture and trauma in an elementary school: Informing a model for culturally responsive trauma-informed schools. The Urban Review, 48(4), 520-542.

30Goodman, R. D., Miller, M. D., & West-Olatunji, C. A. (2012). Traumatic stress, socioeconomic status, and academic achievement among primary school students. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(3), 252.

31Texas Education Agency (n.d.). Grief Informed and Trauma Informed Practices. Retrieved from

32McInerney, M., & McKlindon, A. (2014). Unlocking the door to learning: Trauma-informed classrooms and transformational schools. Education Law Center, 1-24.

33Morganstein, J. C. (2019). Coping after disaster. American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved from

34Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (n.d.). Teachers helping students: Listening and talking. Retrieved from

35National Association of Independent Schools (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for independent schools. Retrieved from