Teacher vaccinations can also serve as an “extra layer of protection” on masking, distancing, hand washing, facility cleaning and quick contact tracing, as well as quarantines for those infected, Walensky said. She urged states to give priority to vaccination educators. However, the CDC guidelines reiterate that access to vaccines “should not be viewed as a requirement for schools reopening for personal education”.
The Education Department published the first volume of a handbook designed to guide educators on masking and physical distancing. These are intended to complement the operational strategy of the CDC.
The guidelines raise questions about how Washington’s influence will affect the decision to hold face-to-face classes in the coming weeks. Federal officials stressed the government’s guidelines were not orders. State and local governments still have the final say on how and when personal learning takes place. But teacher unions, Democrats and Republicans began staking opposing positions in the hours immediately following the CDC and Education Department announcement.
Biden aligned the guidelines with the highest political position in his government. The opening of schools is a “national imperative,” said the president, which can only be achieved if Congress swiftly approves a stimulus package of $ 1.9 trillion, the previous $ 130 billion for K-12 Schools and $ 40 billion in higher education.
“To meet these guidelines, some schools need more teachers and support staff to ensure smaller classes, more buses and bus drivers to safely transport our children, more rooms for personal teaching and more protective equipment, school cleaning services. and physical changes to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, ”Biden said in a detailed statement Friday night.
“These needs cost money. But the cost of keeping our children, families and educators safe is nothing compared to the cost of inaction, ”he said.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the agency’s guidelines would help us find the way forward to getting students back into the classrooms. “However, implementing these important public health measures to ensure schools reopen and stay open safely still requires significant investment,” she said.
Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Chairman of education and labor, said the guidelines “make a strong case” for Congress to pass the next Covid-19 stimulus bill. The committee passed its part of the bill on Wednesday, which includes $ 130 billion to help reopen schools.
“Decisions to reopen schools shouldn’t be based on politics – they should be based on whether schools can adhere to the CDC’s science-based guidelines,” Scott said in a statement.
Several House Republicans, including Chairman Kevin McCarthy and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Said the guide supported their demands to get students back into the classroom. Foxx, the senior Republican on the education committee, also criticized the Biden administration for providing “political allies”.
“The White House claims to be ambitious about this issue, but in schools across America the lights are still out and students are staying home,” she said in a statement.
The Education Handbook provides school principals with scenarios for implementing the CDC’s recommendations – important details that education groups had previously submitted to the Trump administration for review.
Aside from implementing hand washing, masking, and social distancing, the manual describes how school principals can design a cohort or group of students for personal learning, safely bus children to schools, and safely conduct after-school activities such as sports. It also includes strategies for communicating with families and encouraging symptom review at home.
The series is expected to be updated with new volumes as more information becomes available, particularly on virus variants, the education department wrote. The division would like to add volumes of “research-based and practitioner-informed strategies and examples” on topics such as helping students with their mental health, ensuring the well-being of school staff, providing nutrition, and more.
The CDC guidelines suggested that elementary schools stick to hybrid learning or reduced face-to-face tuition when cases are highest in the surrounding community, and that recognized face-to-face tuition should take precedence over exercise, other extracurricular activities, and indoor dining.
Given the current uneven safety risks between younger and older children, the CDC also suggests that middle and high schools only learn virtually if a community logs 100 or more new cases per 100,000 people in the previous week. and if the rate of positive Covid-19 tests reaches or exceeds 10 percent over the same period. Unless schools can “strictly implement all mitigation strategies” and experience few infections. or implement advanced virus testing according to guidelines.
The guidelines also place less emphasis on virus testing, vaccinations and ventilation. However, officials stressed that these tools are still valuable ways to ensure the safety of schools and the guidance provides extensive suggestions on how schools can run testing programs. Even after teachers and staff have been vaccinated, schools must continue to use masking, social distancing and other safety practices “for the foreseeable future,” according to the CDC.
“I want to underline that the safest way to open schools is to make sure that there is as little disease as possible in the community,” Walensky said on Friday. “We know that the introduction of subsequent transmission of Covid-19 in schools is directly linked to and facilitated by the transmission of Covid-19 outside of schools and in the community.”
Walensky had also outlined key bits of her agency’s perspective earlier this month. She said that opening schools for face-to-face teaching requires control of the virus and teachers don’t must be vaccinated so that personal lessons can be safely resumed. She also stressed that with the right combination of precautions, campuses can be reopened.
“Data from schools suggests that there is very little transmission in schools, especially when masking and distancing occur,” Walensky told reporters earlier this week.
“If there are broadcasts in schools, it is because they were brought out of the community and because there are violations of masking and distancing,” she said Monday. “So if we want to open our schools – and open our schools safely and well – the best way to do that is to reduce its circulation in the community.”
Walensky was skeptical of how much influence the White House had on the new leadership. During the summer, senior White House officials had pressured the CDC to downplay the risk of bringing children back to the classroom in support of former President Donald Trump’s threat to reopen schools fully or to lose federal funding. The Government Accountability Office has also classified the administration’s guidelines as inconsistent and unclear.
“We used stronger language than the previous guide,” said Walensky.
“We have put much more regulation in place here to put in place some guard rails on what can and should be done to get to a safe opening. And I can assure you that this is free from political interference, ”she said.
The White House has given varying explanations for what “open” means and how Biden will achieve his goal of resuming classroom teaching in most K-8 schools by the end of his first 100 days in office.
“Open,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki defined it to reporters, means that educators teach students face-to-face at least one day a week. Then Psaki said on Wednesday that the goal is “not the ceiling” but “the bar that we want to jump over and exceed”.
“The president will not rest until every school is open five days a week,” said Psaki on Thursday. “That is our goal.”
The country’s two largest teacher unions endorsed the new guidelines, which they praised as a much-needed “reset” and partnership, as they included input from educational groups.
“These safeguards should have been in place 10 months ago,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement. “Instead, the previous government meddled with the facts, creating mass chaos and confusion. Now we have the chance for a quick reset. “
The National Education Association warned that some reopened schools were failing to meet the standards outlined and urged Congress to move swiftly through legislative action to preserve more resources for schools.
“We must also acknowledge that many schools still do not meet CDC standards, especially those attended by black, brown, indigenous and poor white students who have severely outdated ventilation systems and no testing or tracing programs “said NEA President Becky Pringle in a statement.