The pilot study, conducted in the US state of Missouri, was aimed at identifying ways to keep elementary and secondary schools open and safe during the pandemic.
The findings, published in the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, mirror those of schools in other states, demonstrating that Covid-19 prevention efforts can significantly curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among students, teachers and staff.
"This work is imperative because keeping kids in school provides not only educational enrichment but also social, psychological and emotional health benefits, particularly for students who rely on school-based services for nutritional, physical and mental health support," said senior author Johanna Salzer, a veterinary medical officer with the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
The pilot study involved 57 schools in the Pattonville School District in St. Louis County and the Springfield Public School District in Greene County in southwest Missouri, as well as two private schools in St. Louis County.
All schools in the pilot study required students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear masks while on campus or buses.
Other safety measures included a focus on hand hygiene, deep cleaning of facilities, physical distancing in classrooms, daily symptom screenings for Covid-19, installing physical barriers between teachers and students, offering virtual learning options, and increasing ventilation.
"Schools can operate safely during a pandemic when prevention strategies are followed," said one of the study's leading researchers, Jason Newland, Professort at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.