Social Work and School Reopening

Published on : September 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.


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

ASWB continues to coordinate with Pearson VUE to advise exam candidates about test center availability. The Pearson VUE staff is closely monitoring the changing health and safety recommendations by state, province, and country and adjusting their operations and capacity parameters accordingly. Although some Pearson VUE-owned test centers are still operating at 50% capacity, others are operating at full or near-full capacity when they can do so safely. Some areas also have had to decrease availability due to pandemic concerns. Candidates registered with ASWB to take the exam can discover testing appointment availability at specific test centers by logging into 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. 

Registration is open for the 2020 CSWE Annual Program Meeting (APM). This year’s APM theme is Leading Critical Conversations: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. This virtual conference will feature daily keynote lectures and plenary sessions, hundreds of social work education presentations, a virtual exhibit hall, and networking opportunities. Connect to the 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, due to a variety of factors, may 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 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., food and shelter). More than 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.

More than 1,300 school social workers participated in a recent survey on the impact of COVID-19 on their schools. The study, conducted by 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 to keep 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. You can view the survey policy brief online.

The pandemic has also affected how the next generation of social workers is educated. Colleges and universities were forced to pivot and deliver traditionally in-person courses online in the spring semester. CSWE quickly moved to reduce the hours needed from field placements as those valuable learning opportunities changed and to 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 the CSWE and the California State University, Sacramento, Division of Social Work

Numerous steps are imperative 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.


View the NASW's resources on COVID-19 and school reopening.

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