As the fall school semester gets into full swing, students across the U.S. are having vastly different educational experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students are having all schooling in person, others are doing all their learning online, and others are experiencing a hybrid of the two. An extended lack of in-person schooling can lead to issues such as decreases in academic progress (especially in low-income districts), damage to mental health and social development, and less physical activity among students, according to the CDC. However, a state should not resume full-time in-person schooling until the current public health crisis from COVID-19 is sufficiently minimized in that state.
In order to determine which states are the safest for reopening schools, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 15 key metrics. Our data set includes such things as the number of child COVID-19 cases per 100,000 children, the average public-school class size, and the ratio of students to school nurses. Read on for the ranking, additional insight from a panel of experts, and a complete description of our methodology.
Safest States for Schools to Reopen
|State||Total Score||‘Risk of COVID-19 Infections’ Rank||‘Health & Financial Infrastructure’ Rank|
Ask the Experts
In order to get more insight about reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, WalletHub turned to a panel of experts. Click on the photos of the experts below to view their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- What are the biggest educational challenges schools face in the process of reopening this fall?
- What would be the best reopening strategies to ensure the safety of teachers and students?
- What benchmarks should local authorities and school districts take into consideration when determining the restart of full-time in-person classes?
- What measures can local policy makers and school districts take to aid working parents and single parents in scenarios that involve part-time face-to-face instruction combined with distance learning?
- What should school districts do in the event of worrying spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases upon reopening?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the safest states for schools to reopen, WalletHub compared the 50 states across two key dimensions: 1) Risk of COVID-19 Infections and 2) Health & Financial Infrastructure. We evaluated those dimensions using 15 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the safest conditions. Finally, we determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.
Risk of COVID-19 Infections – Total Points: 60
- Child COVID-19 Cases per 100,000 Children: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Child COVID-19 Deaths per 100,000 Children: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
- COVID-19 Cases in the Last Seven Days per 100,000 Residents: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Public Mask Usage: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the presence or absence of state action requiring residents to wear a face mask in public.
- 1 - No state action on public face coverings;
- 0.5 - State requires the use of face coverings for certain employees;
- 0.25 - State allows local officials to require the use of public face coverings for the general public;
- 0 - Face coverings required for the general public
- Share of K-12 Public School Students Transported Through School Transportation: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Public K-12 Students Transported Daily/ Total K-12 Students Enrolled.
- Average Public-School Class Size: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This composite metric takes into account primary schools, middle schools and high schools.
- Pupil-Teacher Ratio: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
- Share of Seniors Living with School-Age Children: Double Weight (~8.00 Points)
Note: This metric refers to “Seniors” as individuals aged 65 and older and “School-Age Children” as 5 to 18 years old.
- Share of Children Living in Crowded Housing: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of children under age 18 living in households that have more than one person per room.
- Overall Likelihood of COVID-19 Infections: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the current COVID-19 transmission number, which is an estimate of the average number of people to whom an infected person will transmit the COVID-19 virus.
Health & Financial Infrastructure – Total Points: 40
- Comprehensive School Reopening Guidance: Triple Weight (~13.33 Points)
Note: This metric scores how many of the 12 criteria considered are addressed in the respective state’s school reopening policies. The 12 criteria noted are: Core Academics, SARS CoV2 Protection, Before & After School Programs, School Access & Transportation, Student Health Services, Food & Nutrition, Parent Choice, Teacher & Staff Choice, Children with special needs / ESL / Gifted and Twice Exceptional, Children of poverty and systemic disadvantage, Privacy, Engagement and Transparency.
- WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Children’s Health Care” Score: Double Weight (~8.89 Points)
Note: This metric in based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Children’s Health Care” ranking.
- WalletHub’s “States with the Best Health Infrastructure for Coronavirus” Score: Double Weight (~8.89 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “States with the Best Health Infrastructure for Coronavirus” ranking, and includes metrics such as: Number of Hospital Beds per Capita, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Beds per Capita or Number of Hospital Beds Most Needed Exclusively for COVID Patients per All Hospital Beds Available.
- Student-to-School-Nurse Ratio: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
- Total Current Spending on Elementary & Secondary Schools per Pupil: Full Weight (~4.44 Points)
Note: Current spending includes per pupil spending for salaries and wages, employee benefit payments, current spending for instruction and current spending for support services. The per pupil spending amounts included are derived from current spending totals and the fall membership data. Per pupil expenditure does not include spending for non-elementary-secondary programs (community service, adult education), or spending by a school system for students not included in its fall membership counts.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Academy of Pediatrics, The COVID Tracking Project, Kaiser Family Foundation, School Bus Fleet Magazine, National Center for Education Statistics, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, covid19-projections.com, eSchool+ Initiative - Johns Hopkins University, American Civil Liberties Union and WalletHub research.