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Trump Presses Schools to Reopen

  • July 08, 2020

Her organization joined several others, including the National Parent Teacher Association and the American Federation of Teachers, in a joint statement saying that without a comprehensive plan for safety, “we could be putting students, their families and educators in danger.”

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Tuesday that his agency had never advised schools to close across the board. But in March, the C.D.C. issued guidance recommending school closures of two to eight weeks in response to confirmed cases and high absenteeism, or as part of a larger mitigation strategy. In early March, the agency abruptly canceled a call with thousands of superintendents just minutes before it was to provide further clarity. Since then, the agency has issued conflicting guidance to frustrated educators who ultimately relied on their state leaders to make the call.

Ms. DeVos’s Education Department granted waivers from federal mandates, like standardized testing, and issued guidance for how to fund private schools and educate students with disabilities. But until now, she had largely left decision making to the states, even as educators have asked for advice from the federal government.

After what amounted to a fitful and largely unsatisfying nationwide experiment in distance learning last spring, many districts are looking for ways to reopen in the fall, perhaps through a hybrid model relying on both online and in-person learning, including New York City, the nation’s largest school district. So far, Texas and Florida have announced that in-person instruction will be a mandatory option in the fall.

In mounting their pressure campaign, administration officials pointed to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other research suggesting that the risks of the virus to children are much lower than for older Americans while the benefits of being physically present in school are critical.

“Children get much more than an education from school,” said Dr. Sally Goza, the academy’s president, who joined Mr. Trump for his event. “Being away from peers, teachers and school services has lasting effects for children.”

On a call with reporters, administration officials said they were urging schools to make plans that anticipate cases while minimizing the risk of spread and the need for school closures. The officials said the biggest risk with reopening schools and colleges would be infected students transmitting the virus to someone more vulnerable.

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