Document Type

Honors Project


During the COVID-19 pandemic, lacking national U.S. policies, wide variation and conflict over chosen public school policy decisions emerged. What factors and guidelines informed the decision-making process in K-12 public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and who were the key stakeholders? This study examines three school district types – a large city, medium city, and small-town – across Minnesota as case studies to unpack how policy decisions were made during the pandemic. Stakeholder interviews uncovered that the school decision-making process was a) connected to a district's political opinions, b) made by the superintendent and school board, c) primarily influenced by then current-day health and safety concerns, and d) justified using ethics, emotions, and take-your-pick science. In the absence of formal decision-making frameworks, school administrators justified policies based on ethical and political opinions with scientific evidence, state guidance, constituent support, and ethics. This led to conflict over the perceived 'right' choice and worsened the divisiveness of public COVID-19 opinions. Additionally, varying levels of disagreement with the U.S.’s education governance structure, particularly on local control vs state/federal imposition, emerged. This research identifies the individual nature with which COVID-19 school policies were formed and suggests a need for developing ethical decision-making frameworks for future scenarios.



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