In the anguished battle over reopening America’s schools, the nation is divided into distinct, sometimes overlapping groups. There are those who want schools to fully reopen in the fall in order to restore normalcy for children or to help reopen the economy or both, and others who are much more concerned that in-person instruction could seed broader outbreaks.Into this morass comes a package of documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about reopening schools, a second attempt after President Trump assailed the agency’s original recommendations last month as “very tough and expensive.” This time there’s something for everyone.
|The documents include an opening statement that offers a full-throated call to reopen schools this fall, sounding at times more like a political speech than a scientific document. The C.D.C. did not write it; the statement was created by a working group convened by officials at the Department of Health and Human Services.|
|It lists many reasons children benefit from being in school, and downplays potential health risks, repeatedly describing children as unlikely to catch or spread the virus, even though the transmission risk is not definitively known.|
|But the package also includes information that some epidemiologists said was helpful, including checklists for parents and mitigation measures for schools, like keeping desks at least six feet apart, teaching hand-washing and mask-wearing, and keeping small groups of children in one classroom all day.|
|Our colleague told us that after all of the back and forth on back-to-school guidelines, “the C.D.C.’s job is done for now.”|
|“It’s now pretty fully in the hands of local school districts and principals and superintendents to figure this out,” she said, “and there’s really not a lot of time left to make these decisions.” Because the new materials are of two minds — arguing for children to return to school while recommending very cautious guidelines for doing so — it won’t go far in mending the splits dividing Americans about how and when to reopen schools.|
|“It’s confusing,” she told us. “I would say that instead of providing clarity or creating a truce, it just kind of digs people into their differing positions on this even more.”|
|The cost of getting it wrong. A number of virus clusters in the U.S. have been traced back to school-related events like graduation ceremonies or gatherings of teenagers.|