Every parent in America with school-age children has the same hot topic on their mind as the summer progresses – will their child’s school be open in the fall? President Trump is strongly encouraging school districts across the country to re-open and get a more normal school year underway. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos agrees with the president and she supports his threat of cutting off federal dollars to school districts that do not re-open.
A document meant for internal use only at the CDC was leaked (shocker!) to the New York Times. The left is determined to keep making the coronavirus outbreak into a political football. The 69-page internal document alleges that a full re-opening of schools puts the spread of the coronavirus at the highest risk.
The purpose of the document was to aid federal response teams that were deployed to coronavirus hotspots nationwide.
But the document was circulated the same week that Vice President Mike Pence said that he expected the CDC to revise its guidelines next week so that they wouldn’t be ‘too tough.’
Pence and Trump have been eager to send students back to school so that parents would be free of the burden of virtual home instruction and thus could focus on re-entering the workforce and propping up the economy again.
The CDC provided an analysis of plans put forward by some school districts.
‘While many jurisdictions and districts mention symptom screening, very few include information as to the response or course of action they would take if student/faculty/staff are found to have symptoms, nor have they clearly identified which symptoms they will include in their screening,’ according to the talking points.
‘In addition, few plans include information regarding school closure in the event of positive tests in the school community.’
Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the CDC, contradicted Pence when he said that no, there will not be new guidelines or revised guidelines for schools, but only additional information in the guidelines. Pence said last week that he expected new guidelines to be released after President Trump pointed to the expense involved in the CDC guidelines for school districts.
The most important opinion from the CDC is the recognition that one size doesn’t fit all – local communities must decide what is best for students in their school districts. That bodes well with a basic Republican tenet – the government closest to the people governs best. Teachers’ unions, for example, are voicing opposition to re-opening. Since teachers’ unions are Democrat organizations – most have publicly endorsed Joe Biden – it is hard not to think part of their strategy is to oppose re-opening schools until after the presidential election, holding the national economy hostage for as long as possible. Until schools re-open, many parents are unable to go back to work.
And as Mr. Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were trying to pressure local schools to comply with their reopening vision, the document was expressly saying the federal government should not override local judgment.
“These C.D.C. considerations are meant to supplement — not replace — any federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations” with which schools must comply, the packet states in bold lettering. “Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, and acceptable and be tailored to the needs of each community.”
This morning on Meet the Press, Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, explained that his school district is using CDC guidelines and is confident in his re-opening plan. He spoke of a need for more federal money to implement safety measures for students. His is a hybrid approach – some online classes, some students in classrooms. Younger kids may be more easily able to come back to school, while older students may be safer using online education. He expects to open training camps for some sports later this month, using extreme social distancing. Most importantly, he pointed to the fact that six weeks from now when some schools face re-opening, the situation on the ground may be quite different than it is now, as far as spikes in new cases go.
The effectiveness of the administration’s response to the coronavirus was a hot topic on Sunday morning political shows. Admiral Giroir, member of the White House coronavirus task force and Assistant Secretary of HHS (and a pediatrician) encouraged Face the Nation host Chuck Todd to “look at the data” as they debated the progress made with the coronavirus. Giroir defended the administration’s response and said they are “aggressively” acting with more availability of tests, safety equipment, and that another national shut down isn’t necessary. Also, he pointed out that if people do get sick, doctors know how to treat patients better now.
The Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, was interviewed on Face the Nation. He pointed to the fact a rise in cases can just as quickly fall. “When we learn more, our recommendations change.” Adams wants more specific guidelines from the CDC on schools re-opening. In particular, the recommendation that all students bring a lunch to school. Many students depend on schools supplying lunch so he said that it is important to make sure those students are taken care of as schools re-open. It is alarming to think of how dependent so many poor and low-income families are on the federal government’s programs in school districts, like school lunch programs. Some schools offer breakfast, too, and weekend backpack programs with snacks and basic essentials. No one wants kids to go hungry but it often looks like the situation has gotten out of control. The coronavirus outbreak has brought these kinds of issues to the surface. Schools are often used as babysitters for working parents. If schools are closed, parents have to make other arrangements or stay home with their kids.
The question remains unresolved – do we keep children sheltered and continue to keep them home from school or do we agree that schools should re-open and respond accordingly if problems arise? The coronavirus will still be with us when it’s time to re-open. The level of its severity in communities across the country at that time is unknown. Southern states open before schools on the east coast. Western states have their own school year schedules, too. One size doesn’t fit all.