In response to a wide demand for timely and expert resources during the COVID pandemic, we developed STARTS: Strategic Toolkit Advising the Return to School for, and with, teachers, parents, students, counselors, and district leaders. It is our hope that this toolkit provides support and resources to promote the wellbeing and safety of students, families, and school staff.


School districts in the US face profound uncertainty throughout the COVID pandemic and school leaders, parents, teachers, and students are now seeking ways to make the return to school as safe as possible for the entire 2021-22 school year. School staff and leaders are united in trying to minimize disruptions caused by COVID, such as missed school days and staff burnout. We strongly believe that the burden of COVID can be reduced by vaccination of eligible students, greater attention to ventilation, indoor masking, testing when possible, and social distancing when possible, such as in the lunchroom.

In response to these concerns, we wanted to provide COVID safety strategies that will protect students and school staff, and that safely keep children in school. Learn more about supporting and implementing COVID safety strategies at your school.

At the same time, across the country, through conversations with teachers, counselors, and district leaders, we are learning of the deep concern for the social and emotional health of returning students. A proven way to support students’ wellbeing is through social and emotional learning (SEL), a process through which people develop skills and knowledge to live rich, resilient, healthy emotional lives. Learn how to support and implement SEL at your school.


STARTS gratefully acknowledges funding from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Dean’s Emergency Fund Grant (Dean Dr. Michelle Williams).


Alan Geller, Senior Lecturer, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Samuel R. Mendez, PhD Student, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Special thanks

Dr. Tracy Gladstone, PhD, Research Director, Associate Director, Senior Research Scientist, and Leader of the Depression Prevention Research Initiative, Wellesley Centers for Women


The STARTS team also includes the many teachers, superintendents, counselors, physicians, and advisors who have contributed to and shaped STARTS by sharing their time and knowledge to assist us. We wish to acknowledge:

Dr. Joseph Allen

Dr. Elias Alonzo

Dr. Bob Baldwin

Robert Bardwell

Dr. Maureen Binienda

Juliana Dapice

Rep. Mindy Domb

Seth Evans

Mike Fadel

Dr. Lloyd Fisher

Scott Fulmer

Dr. Dede Galdston

Rep. Dr. Tami Gouveia

Dr. Daniel Gutekanst

Dr. Simon Johnson

Dr. Julia Koehler

Glenn Koocher

Dr. Regina LaRocque

Michelle McElreath

Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso

Merrie Najimy

Dr. Max Page

Carlene Pavlos

Kaitlin Schroeder

Dr. Tom Scott

Mike Sireci

Rachel Skerker

Dr. Alan Stern

Elizabeth Sylvester

Superintendent Priya Tahilini