COVID-19: Resources for Reopening Healthy School Facilities

              COVID header

Reopening America’s public schools for site-based instruction safely amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires school facilities to be in good repair and to be used differently than normal. Operating healthy school buildings is a foundational necessity for battling the pandemic. Here we curate resources and tools developed by experts to assist local schools and states in safely and equitably reopening their school facilities.

Updates? Contact us!

This list is a living resource. Please send us resources we should add: or via Twitter: @CitiesSchoolsUC

Reopening Schools Safely and Equitably Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic: School Facilities are Frontline Defense in Reducing Risk

Jeff Vincent, Center for Cities + Schools, UC Berkeley

As the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, rapidly spread across the globe in Spring 2020, one of the most widely implemented risk reduction measures utilized was to physically close all school buildings. Reopening America’s public schools for site-based instruction safely amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is remarkably complicated and hotly debated. Operating healthy school buildings is a necessity for doing so. However, the important urgency of having school facilities in good repair is missing from the national debate on school reopening. This brief describes how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads and why mitigation measures are recommended for schools. This brief argues that it will be more difficult for schools with poor condition facilities to effectively implement the SARS-CoV-2 mitigation measures. As a result, students and staff attending these schools will face greater health risks.

Healthy Schools: Cleaning, Disinfecting, Healthy Air Quality, Scheduling and Social Distancing. A Resource for School Facility and Maintenance Departments

By California’s Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH) Maintenance Network June 2020

Classroom Capacity Calculator

Developed by Cannon Design, this free and easy-to-use tool helps schools determine the number of students in classrooms and other school spaces to meet social distancing objectives.

FAQs on Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 Aerosol Transmission

Living document created by 7 of the world's leading scientists and engineers on air quality, aerosol science, aerosol disease transmission, and engineered control systems for aerosols. A reader-friendly comprehensive set of information on how SARS-CoV-2 spreads and how to mitigate risk.

COVID-19 Aerosol Transmission Estimator

Developed by Prof. Jose L Jimenez, Dept. of Chem. and CIRES, Univ. of Colorado-Boulder. The Estimator calculates COVID-19 infection risk for a number of basic situations, including different sized classrooms. The model is downloadable and free, and users can tweak inputs to ask, for example, what’s my risk if other students wear or don’t wear masks?

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Healthy Buildings Program

The Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has developed a series of tools for schools to mitigate COVID-19 risks: "Schools should adopt and adapt these recommendations to best fit their unique situation, depending on available personnel, resources, finances, school demographics, and building attributes. In addition, schools should frequently revisit their approach as the COVID-19 situation changes over time in each community. Although it is unlikely that any given school will be able to incorporate every recommendation, we want to emphasize that these strategies work together as part of a multi-layered plan to reduce exposure and limit transmission of COVID-19 in schools."



Tool: 5 Step Guide to Checking Ventilation Rates in Classrooms. Easy to use guide on checking ventilation rates and, if needed, adding supplemental air cleaning strategies to meet targets.

Tool: PORTABLE AIR CLEANER CALCULATOR FOR SCHOOLS.v1Developed in partnership with researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder, this tool is intended to simplify decision-making around portable air cleaners in schools for airborne transmission control.

National Council on School Facilities

The National Council on School Facilities (NCSF) supports states in their varied roles and responsibilities and to advocate for support mechanisms and processes that equitably deliver safe, healthy, and educationally appropriate public school facilities that are sustainable and fiscally sound.

Tool: PK-12 Reopening WorkbookA detailed list of over 100 tasks organized according to achieving public health in schools objectives, that can be modified for individual state, district or school application.

Tool: Budget Estimates WorkbookA detailed list of the reopening tasks with budget estimates and formulas that can be modified for a school, district, region, or state. Improvements and updates will be made regularly.

Tool: Reopen Scenario WorkbookThis workbook has various scenarios from all offsite education delivery for PK-12 grades to scenarios with 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% utilization of school facilities. Each scenario set is divided by grade bands for early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school. The user should fill the worksheets with descriptions and impacts of each scenario based on local conditions.

Tool: Map and Summary of State School Reopening GuidanceCompiled in partnership with UC Berkeley's Center for Cities + Schools, this map provides brief summaries of and links to school reopening guidance released by each state.

Webinars: Operationalizing Reopening SchoolsNCSF parterned with Cooperative Strategies, a national school planning firm, to host a series of webinars on reopening schools. Webinars focus mainly on health and safety issues related to the use and condition of facilities, grounds, and buses.

Setting up Outdoor Learning Spaces on School Campuses

National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative. Led by Green Schoolyards America in partnership with The Lawrence Hall of Science, San Mateo County Office of Education, and Ten Strands, the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative shares frameworks, strategies, and guidance on outdoor learning for school districts across the country.

Guide to Advocating for Outdoor Classrooms in Coronavirus-Era School Reopening. Developed by the North American Association for Environmental Education and National Wildlife Federation.

HVAC & Mechanical Systems: University of California - Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center

Video Explainer: Ventilation in Schools

Report: Testing, Adjusting and Balancing HVAC Systems: An Overview of Certification Agencies. May 12, 2020

Report: Proposed Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification/Repair Program for School Reopening. UC Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute and NEMI (National Energy Management Institute) White Paper on Ventilation Verification and Optimization in Educational Facilities. This paper presents a proposal for a Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification/Repair Program that would prepare schools for reopening during the COVID-19 crisis.


Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air. With more than 54,000 members from over 132 nations, ASHRAE is a diverse organization dedicated to advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration to serve humanity and promote a sustainable world.

Rhode Island Department of Education Facility Reopening Guidance

Tool: Back to School RI: COVID-19 Facilities and Physical Plant Guidance to Reopen Rhode Island’s Elementary and Secondary Schools

Tool: COVID-19 Facilities and Physical Plant School Checklist

Public School Facilities Planning in the Era of COVID-19 Guide

Developed by Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools.

School bus safety during the COVID-19 pandemic: 8 recommendations

Created by Jesse Capecelatro, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan who studies the flow physics of particles and droplets.



Image icons from Noun Project by Nociconist (school building), ProSymbols (AC), and monkik (all others)