The inauguration of Joe Biden takes place this week. The President-elect recently proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package which includes new aid for K-12 and higher education. Here are the details on his approach, which has been called a “rescue plan” aimed at reopening schools.

(Updated 1/14) A new, $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed by President-elect Joe Biden would dedicate an additional $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, as well as spending billions more to prop up the state and local governments that are critical to funding education.

Biden’s announcement comes less that a month since Congress approved a $900 billion Covid relief package that included about $82 billion for education. The December 2020 package provides:

  • $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, largely delivered through Title I funding. That’s about four times what schools received in the CARES Act approved in March.
  • $22.7 billion for higher education with $1.7 billion set aside for minority-serving institutions and close to $1 billion for for-profit colleges
  • $4 billion for governors to spend at their discretion, with $2.7 billion of that for private schools.Biden’s proposal would put another $130 billion toward K-12 schools and $35 billion to support higher education institutions. Another $5 billion would go to governors to use at their discretion for the “hardest hit” K-12, higher education or early education programs. The K-12 dollars would be focused on helping schools reopen, though the allowable uses would be quite broad, A portion would be used challenge grants focused on educational equity.

Read this full article in FutureEd: What Congressional Covid Funding Means for K-12 Schools

As schools grapple with reopening plans across the country, education leaders, teachers unions, and parents clash over what they believe to be the safest path forward. A recent study offers new insights about how school impacts public health.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, experts and educators have feared that open schools would spread the coronavirus further, which is why so many classrooms remain closed. But a new, nationwide study suggests reopening schools may be safer than previously thought, at least in communities where the virus is not already spreading out of control.

The study comes from REACH, the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, at Tulane University. Up to this point, researchers studying the public health effects of school reopening have focused largely on positivity rates. As in, did the rate of positive coronavirus tests among kids or communities increase after schools reopened?

Read this full article in NPR: Where Is It Safe To Reopen Schools? New Research Offers Answers

As we experience some of the most intense challenges our country has ever faced, students are watching. Now, educators across the US are tasked with explaining dramatic events as tensions unfold in real time. This article shares resources for how to navigate these issues and support your students.

The dramatic events of Jan. 6 and their continuing fallout demand sustained and careful classroom attention from teachers. But there is no complete roadmap available to them yet.

What makes teaching about the insurrection on Capitol Hill especially complicated is that it’s not a spontaneous event, but rather the product of multiple factors and trends: political polarization, a disintegrating news infrastructure and the rise of social media, a backlash to recent discourse about criminal justice, and racism, among many things.

Nor were the day’s events entirely without historical precedent. Disputed elections have occurred at several points in American history, and there has been at least one other attempted insurgency.

It’s OK not to have everything all figured out immediately, said Emma Humphries, the chief education officer at iCivics, the civics curriculum provider and advocacy group. At least in the beginning, teachers should trust their instincts and take steps to make sure students feel safe. But longer term?

Read this full article in EdWeek: How to Teach the U.S. Capitol Attack: Dozens of Resources to Get You Started

During the pandemic, most schools have been tasked with reaching students online.  However, finding way to engage, connect with, and reach students –especially those without reliable internet access or tech devices–has been an extraordinary challenge. Now, educators and local tv stations have teamed up for a creative solution to engage students at home.

Nearly every weekday morning, Valentin Vivar curls up in bed next to his older sister, Araceli, and switches on one of his favorite television shows.

The hourlong program, “Let’s Learn NYC!”, isn’t typical children’s fare. Valentin, 5, watches as educators from New York City public schools teach math and science, sing songs and take viewers on virtual field trips to botanical gardens and dance performances. Araceli, 17, is there to help out.

After the coronavirus pandemic shut down their schools in March, the siblings attended virtual classes from their apartment in Queens on Araceli’s iPhone. Their parents could not afford another device, and their class attendance was sporadic because sometimes both had school at the same time. Valentin, who needed speech therapy, was missing out on conversations with classmates, and he was struggling to pronounce words.

Then a teacher told them about the television program, and Valentin was hooked. He sounded out letters and words and formed strong bonds with the teachers he saw onscreen.

Now, Valentin “wants to read books by himself, and he’s writing new words,” Araceli said. “I really like to see him learn and grow.”

Around the country, educators and local television stations have teamed up to help teachers make their broadcast debuts and engage children who are stuck in the doldrums of distance learning. The idea — in some ways a throwback to the early days of public television — has supplemented online lessons for some families, and serves a more critical role: reaching students who, without reliable internet access or a laptop at home, have been left behind.

Read this full article:

New York Times: Teachers on TV? Schools Try Creative Strategy to Narrow Digital Divide

As we count down to the close of 2020 (with GREAT enthusiasm!), and look forward to 2021, we THANK YOU–our community of educators, public safety and mental health professionals, security and safety leaders, administrators, parents, students, and support staff–for staying the course through one of the most challenging years we have all faced.

Our schools and our students are safer because of your efforts, partnership, and collective dedication to Safe and Sound Schools.

With your support in 2020, we hosted roundtables, web chats, webinars, and a virtual National Summit! We launched our podcast, developed new tools and resources, and kept our national community connected.

And we couldn’t have done it without you.

As we look to the New Year with hope and excitement, we are eager to introduce NEW team members, deliver NEW programs, online tools and resources, and share NEW opportunities to connect and uplift our national school safety community! Our staff and team of national experts and trainers are already preparing another year of on-line presentations, trainings, and best practice resources to support the safety of every school and every child in the year ahead.

As the New Year sparks hope in each of us, we know there will be much work and many challenges ahead. Together, we will face them once again. Together we will ensure a nation of Safe and Sound Schools!

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Team Safe and Sound


Special thanks to the following organizations who collaborated with us and supported our mission through this unprecedented year in school safety:

As we celebrate this unusual holiday season and prepare to welcome a new year, we are finding new, creative ways to virtually connect with our families, friends, and school communities.  The following survey shows that students are asking for more ways to connect with their teachers- and school leaders are listening.

Middle and high school students say that they’re not doing as well in school as they were before the pandemic, and that they want more opportunities for connection with their teachers, according to new research from the National Education Association and the National PTA.

The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in October, asked 800 public school students ages 13-18 about the academic, emotional, and economic effects of COVID-19 for themselves and their families. Researchers also conducted focus groups with the teenagers.

Read this full article in EdWeek: Students Want More Opportunities to Connect With Teachers During the Pandemic

The pandemic has put a strain on all of our school communities.  Public health measures have transformed the educational experience to protect our kids from the virus.  But amid virtual classes and isolation from peers, concerns are growing over a crisis that’s not so obvious- our students’ mental health.  

If you or a loved one need help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273-8255. For more information on suicide prevention, please visit Safe and Sound Schools’ resource library.

The sounds in her home can become unbearable some days. Heather Wendling will sometimes hear the footsteps of her sons walking in the dining room and think it’s her daughter. She will hear the front door creak when her husband comes home after work and wonder whether it’s her daughter. She will hear the phone ring and know it’s not her daughter, but perhaps another friend or volleyball parent calling to offer condolences or help.

When it all becomes too much, Wendling will sometimes head out to the backyard and sit on the swing set her daughter, London Bruns, used to play on as a little girl. “You can feel her energy there,” Wendling said, and when she is rocking back and forth, she wrestles with the questions of how London could have taken her own life at her home in Ridgefield, Wash., in the early morning hours of Sept. 21. She was 13 years old.

Read the full article: Washington Post: A Hidden Crisis

Additional Resources:

Over the weekend, the CDC director and FDA gave final approval for emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the US.  As questions surrounding efficacy and distribution arise, some school and public health officials say vaccination requirements may be on the way.

Note: The recent authorization is for people 16 and older. 

…pediatricians and school and public health officials are bracing themselves for and bristling against the onslaught of questioners asking the one thing they don’t want to talk about. At least not yet, anyway.

Will children be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to school?

“You hear the questions about whether vaccines should be mandatory or not,” says Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s not the question to be asking right now.”

“The questions to be asking right now are, ‘Is it effective? Is it going to be free? Is it widely accessible?'” she says. “What we’re not doing right now – regardless of what I personally think – we’re not weighing in on whether a vaccine should be mandatory or not right now because that’s not an appropriate question right now.”

The caveats of “right now,” “yet” and “at this moment” do a lot of heavy lifting in conversations about immunization requirements, and that’s because the answer is complicated and not as straightforward as parents would probably like. Not only does it depend on where families live, as different states have different vaccination requirements for schools, but it also depends on drug companies enrolling more children in their trials in order to amass enough data to show – as most pediatricians and public health experts fully expect – that it’s efficacious and safe in children.

Read this full article in US News: No Vaccine, No School?

Additional Resources about the Pfizer vaccine:

Eight years ago, today, our lives were changed forever.  We readied our children for school without realizing these would be our last precious minutes together.

Yet here they are with us, safe and sound.

They live on in our hearts, our actions, and our mission.

They live on in the community we’ve created in their honor, the work accomplished in their names, and our collective determination to ensure that every school and every child is safe and sound.

As we remember today, we look to tomorrow with hope-filled hearts. We are inspired by our children, strengthened in our resolve, and grateful for each of you.

We invite you to remember today and work with us to build a safer tomorrow.

Please join us.


Michele Gay and Alissa Parker are the Co-Founder of Safe and Sound Schools

One of my Sandy Hook neighbors coined the phrase with her daughter on what would have been our daughter Josephine’s 8th birthday. Her daughter’s little fingers etched the proclamation in the fresh snowfall sparkling on the windshield.

And so we do, year after year. Today is the day we celebrate Joey’s 15th birthday. We invite friends, neighbors, and supporters to join us in remembering the light of our little girl, still shining brightly in all that we do in her name. Acts of kindness, smiles for strangers, support of families with Autism, ensuring safe and sound schools, protecting children and youth.

Many of us share in purple celebration today, for the little girl who loved all things “pur-pur” (as she would say it). This year, when so many are in need of support and a reason to celebrate, we invite you to join us.

Whether you don your purple, light a candle, pray for peace, or share an (air) hug, you celebrate the life and legacy of a little girl who changed lives. Without words. Without fame or fortune. With outstretched arms, an open heart, and a smile that to this day warms our souls, heals our hearts, and fuels our mission.

Today we celebrate Joey. Together we continue her work in this world.

Share your celebration with us on social media by using the hashtag #CelebrateJoey.


Michele Gay, Mother of Josephine Gay, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools