The big battle over back to school.
Move over, masks. Schools are shaping up to become the next battleground in the pandemic.
President Donald Trump wants schools to open this fall. So do plenty of parents juggling work, schooling and parenting. But there are concerns about how students can maintain social distance and whether schools will become breeding grounds for coronavirus outbreaks.
Disagreements are already starting to play out publicly. New York City, home to the nation’s largest public school system, plans to take a “blended” approach, with kids coming in two to three days a week, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
A teacher collects personal belongings and supplies at a school in New York.
Trump administration officials in a press briefing later insisted schools must fully reopen this fall. “It’s time for us to get our kids back to school,” Vice President Mike Pence said, listing reasons such as ensuring children can access meals and students with disabilities receive the help they need.
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his own briefing said it’s not up to the federal government. Regardless of who has authority, government and administration officials are staring down tough decisions as the school year inches closer.
Children represent a sliver of overall Covid-19 cases in the U.S., though people under 18 tend not to display symptoms like older people do, White House coronavirus task force adviser Deborah Birx said Wednesday. There’s also worry that students can spread the virus to their teachers and parents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield in the same briefing said there is no evidence that children are driving the transmission of the virus.
A huge question is even if schools resume in-person as normal, will those reassurances be enough to convince administrators, teachers and perhaps most importantly, parents, that it’s safe to return?