Just weeks after President Donald Trump criticized guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on reopening schools as being “expensive” and “very tough,” they have recently rolled out new and controversial recommendations.
But both Democratic lawmakers, as well as teachers, have criticized the CDC’s updated school reopening guidance, with the nation’s second-largest teachers’ labor union claiming the CDC “may have changed its tone to accommodate President Trump’s whims.”
“The CDC may have changed its tone to accommodate President Trump’s whims, but the details of its guidance remain the same: Schools cannot reopen safely and equitably until we have effectively contained the virus spread and have a robust testing system, a plan for a future surge, and appropriate safety protocols in place, including physical distancing, proper ventilation, deep cleaning procedures and adequate personal protective equipment,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which represents 1.7 million members across the nation, said in a statement.
“The CDC could really help parents and educators by issuing a clear set of protocols and making it easier to navigate, instead of offering endless checklists that send people searching for answers,” Weingarten added.
And while the CDC initially stated it had zero plans to revise its guidelines, it then released a series of new resources and tools last Thursday alongside a statement stressing, “the importance of reopening America’s schools this fall,” in the wake of Trump’s comments.
While the CDC claims COVID-19 posed “low risks” to children, according to The New York Times, recent research from South Korea has found that kids 10 and older are just as likely as adults to spread the novel coronavirus.
Last week in the resources and tools that were released, the CDC placed a heavy emphasis on why it was vital for schools to welcome students back with open arms this fall.
“Schools are a fundamental part of the infrastructure of communities,” the CDC noted, adding that schools contributed to a community’s economic health by enabling parents to work.
In addition, the CDC also stressed how remote learning and school closures not only threatened children’s academic achievements but their social, emotional, and behavioral health as well. And while teachers obviously agree there are massive benefits to in-person learning, they have expressed concern about the Trump administration’s push to reopen schools amidst dozens of states surging in COVID-19 cases.
Weingarten argued that while educators agreed remote instruction wasn’t the most ideal learning model, reopening guidance needed to make students’ and teachers’ safety a priority.
Weingarten stated how the union’s executive council had approved members to go on “safety strikes” if school reopening plans were not projected to protect educators’ health and safety. The union has called for schools to reopen only if there is a low infection rate and adequate testing happening in its community. In addition, they are vouching that the school has adequate resources, funding, as well as health safeguards to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.