Social Work and School Reopening in 2020

Sep 11, 2020


About Social Work Responds

The Association of Social Work Boards, the Council on Social Work Education, and the National Association of Social Workers are committed to collaborating on the range of issues affecting the social work profession and the people and communities we serve.

Follow Up

Based on previous Social Work Responds emails and calls to action, our organizations want to share critical follow-up information.

ASWB: We continue to coordinate with Pearson VUE to advise exam candidates about test center availability. Pearson VUE staff are closely monitoring the changing health and safety recommendations by state, province, and country and adjusting their operations and capacity parameters accordingly. While some Pearson VUE-owned test centers are still operating at 50 percent capacity, others are operating at full or near-full capacity as they are able to safely do so. There are also some areas that have had to decrease availability due to pandemic concerns. Candidates registered with ASWB to take the exam can find out testing appointment availability at specific test centers by logging in to their account on the ASWB page on the Pearson VUE website. Candidates who are interested in traveling to other states to test are advised to always check travel restrictions before scheduling an exam out of state.

CSWE: Registration is open for the 2020 Annual Program Meeting (APM). This year’s APM is focused on Leading Critical Conversations: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and will feature daily keynote lectures and plenary sessions, hundreds of social work education presentations, a virtual exhibit hall, and networking opportunities. Connect to APM from your phone or computer anywhere. No travel expenses. No time away from the classroom. Learn more about this year’s virtual event and register today!

Social Work and School Reopening

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, we have lauded and supported essential workers. Social workers were deemed essential early on in this crisis and will continue to play a crucial role in helping students, families, and school communities navigate school disruptions associated with the pandemic.

COVID-19 school disruptions are particularly problematic for students who may, due to a variety of factors, be more vulnerable to learning loss. Prior to the pandemic, research demonstrated the negative impact of summer vacation periods on students of lower socioeconomic status, both in terms of learning and basic social needs. Now we see that the pandemic is multiplying this effect many times over.

The pandemic also continues to pose a significant threat to students who rely on schools to meet their basic needs (e.g., housing, food, and shelter). Over half of all students in elementary and secondary schools across the country depend on the National School Lunch Program, and 12.5 million of those students also participate in the School Breakfast Program. As the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools this spring, these students were placed at risk of not having enough to eat. That risk continues this fall. Millions of students also receive primary health care services at school and rely on the connection schools provide to housing, mental health, and other supports.

In the face of these challenges, school social workers provide valuable expertise in mental health, social and emotional learning, and social care, as well as an understanding of racial and economic equity and the implications of these social determinants on student success and well-being. School social workers are especially crucial now in supporting students of color and special student populations including students from economically disadvantaged families, English learners, and students with disabilities, among others.

Over 1,300 school social workers participated in a recent survey on the impact of COVID-19 on their schools. The study, conducted by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and researchers from Loyola University Chicago, UCLA, Cal State-Fullerton, and Hebrew University, provides valuable insights into the cascading safety-net impacts of school disruption. Survey participants also identified the challenges that schools will need to address in keeping students engaged when school is mostly or all virtual. Many of them reported not being able to reach students online and shared strategies they developed for addressing this barrier. To see the survey policy brief, go to

The pandemic has also affected how the next generation of social workers are educated. Colleges and universities were forced to pivot to delivering traditionally in-person courses online in the Spring semester. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) quickly moved to reduce the hours needed from field placements as those valuable learning opportunities changed and provide programs with support to address the need for social distancing and a focus on telesocialwork.

As many institutions of higher learning adapt to the needs of their communities, educators, administrators, and students, almost all social work students remain committed to receiving their degrees and making a difference in our world. Ninety-five percent of social work students do not believe the pandemic would cause them to change majors according to research from CSWE and California State University, Sacramento, Division of Social Work.

Numerous steps are imperative in order to ensure that vulnerable students in particular are not left further behind in the pandemic. This includes ensuring food security, providing increased mental health services (including trauma-informed care), and enabling universal access to broadband. Whether micro, mezzo, or macro practitioners, social workers should continue to advocate for these supports.


For NASW’s resources on COVID-19 and school reopening, go to

CSWE members have created and shared free lessons and presentations regarding social work, public health, and COVID-19. Learn more and share these resources at


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