Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a call to reopen schools in a statement listing numerous benefits of being in school and downplaying the potential health risks (see video clip above commenting on the CDC guidelines – courtesy of MSNBC).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the statement, along with new “resources and tools,” two weeks after Mr. Trump criticized its earlier recommendations on school reopenings as “very tough and expensive.” His words ratcheted up what was already an anguished national debate over how soon students and teachers should return to classrooms.
“Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets — our children — while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families,” the agency’s new statement said.
Mr. Trump, pummeled with criticism over his handling of the pandemic, sees reopening the nation’s schools this fall as crucial to reinvigorating the economy and to his re-election. While many public health experts and pediatricians agree that returning children to classrooms is critically important, they warn that it has to be done cautiously, with a plan based on scientific evidence. They, along with teachers’ unions, have accused the president of putting children and the adults who supervise them at school at risk by politicizing the subject.
At the same time, the school attended by President Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron, will not fully open for in-person instruction when classes resume, officials announced in a letter to parents. As reported by the Huffington Post.
“St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private kindergarten-through-12th-grade school in Potomac, Maryland, a Washington suburb, will provide either online-only “distance learning” or a hybrid model of students “learning both on and off campus,” according to the letter Thursday from Head of School Robert Kosasky. A final decision will be announced the week of Aug. 10.
When asked earlier this month if the president and first lady would send their 14-year-old son back to the classroom this fall, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded that it was a “personal decision.“ He has attended St. Andrew’s for the last three years.
In both teaching scenarios being considered at St. Andrew’s, “our top priority is to support the safety and well-being of our entire community of students, faculty and staff, and families,” Kosasky stated in the letter to parents. “We are continuing to pay close attention to current guidance from state and county health officials, as well as the CDC, as the health status of our region evolves.”
The school has continued to improve its online instruction, Kosasky added, but he also noted: “We are hopeful that public health conditions will support our implementation of the hybrid model in the fall.”
It appears that each student would still have a choice to opt for remote learning only. “The hybrid model permits students to learn either on campus with rigorous social distancing standards, or remotely,” Kosasky said. The hybrid model would “allow students, families, and faculty and staff with medical concerns to be able to learn, teach, and work remotely throughout the pandemic, while facilitating safe, in-person learning for everyone else.”
Trump has repeatedly said that children must return to their classrooms in the fall.
Florida’s education commissioner earlier this month ordered schools to reopen for in-person instruction in August, even as coronavirus cases jam hospitals in the state.
The Florida Education Association, a teachers union representing about 140,000 school employees, filed a lawsuit Monday against several state officials to block schools from reopening for in-person instruction. The rush to open is failing to provide a safe and secure environment as required in the state constitution, the suit argues.
Randi Weingarten, president of the national American Federation of Teachers, told The New York Times after the St. Andrew’s news that she hopes now the president will have a “scintilla of empathy and consideration for what Americans are going through now that he is experiencing it himself.”
Why anyone would listen to Trump on anything to do with the coronavirus at this time borders on the absurd after he pushed governors to reopen in places like Florida, Texas, and Arizona. Opening schools without safeguards will plunge the country further into the pandemic abyss.
Many school officials, teachers and parents fear that filling classrooms with returning children will put not only the students at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but also will endanger teachers, staff, community members and children’s families.