A Shared Vision for School and Health Equity During COVID and Beyond

March 25, 2021

By Rochelle Davis, President + CEO

One year ago, concerns over the new coronavirus forced schools across the country to close their doors. We all thought we’d see each other again before June.  

There’s a lot we couldn’t have predicted back then, including how schools would become central to discussions around the pandemic and our national recovery. 

Over the past year, we witnessed a growing appreciation for the resources that schools provide — and greater awareness that some school buildings, due to funding inequality and structural racism, have never been considered healthy for students and teachers. 

I now find myself cautiously optimistic about the nation’s commitment to addressing longstanding school and health inequities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. The American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed last week, represents a significant response

In addition to supporting schools as they reopen for in-person learning, the Act includes a number of anti-poverty measures that will help improve the lives of children and their families.

It’s an important first step, but it is only the beginning.

The pandemic focused attention on the importance of a healthy school environment — and forced a reckoning with the fact that many BIPOC students have never experienced a day in school with unlimited access to fresh air, safe drinking water and comprehensive health services. 

HSC is committed to being part of a sustained effort to dismantle the inequitable foundation upon which so much of this has been built. 

We have called for transparency, accountability and science-based policies while developing numerous tools and analyses over the past year to help schools reopen safely and to ensure students have access to healthcare even when school buildings are closed. 

We advocated in The New York Times for federal funding so schools can upgrade aging facilities and improve indoor air quality and in the Washington Post for universal school meals.

Our work reflects a collective national urgency; it is also a reflection of our original core values and ideas for what makes a healthy school. I’m grateful more people and policymakers share our vision.