“We’re very much going to put pressure on the governors and the schools to reopen,” Trump said at a White House event Tuesday on school reopenings. “Open your schools in the fall,” the president told attendees, who were seated close together despite the fact that very few were wearing masks.
The question of just how to reopen schools has become one of the thorniest issues of the entire national response to the deadly pandemic.
More than 50 million children attend school in the United States, and the near blanket closures of schools this spring forced millions of parents to become teachers overnight, often on top of holding down their own full-time jobs.
As the traditional start of the school year approaches, there are few concrete plans in place at either the state or the federal level about how to open schools safely. And as the rate of coronavirus cases has soared to record levels in the past week, parents and educators have become increasingly anxious about whether there is any way to make in-person school safe for both students and teachers.
According to experts, decisions about whether to reopen school systems should be made at the local level in most cases, although they stress that schools across the nation will need additional federal funding in order to retrofit classrooms and common areas to accommodate social distancing.
“We should try the best as possible to get the children back to school and the schools open for the simple reason that the secondary, unintended consequences of having children not being able to go to school has ripple effects for the family that might have deleterious effects that really override the so-called safety benefits,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s premier infectious disease specialist, during a livestreamed event Tuesday with Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama.
“So you don’t want to be risking the health of the children or their families, but you’ve got to follow the guidelines depending upon the level and penetrance of infection in the community,” said Fauci.
In some counties with few or no coronavirus cases, officials and parents might not need to worry much about reopening schools, Fauci said. He added that in other counties, modifications might be necessary to reduce the risk of spread such as staggering class schedules to reduce density in school buildings.
But for Trump, who faces an uphill battle for reelection, the question of whether schools reopen in the fall is quickly becoming one the president is weaponizing to serve his campaign. Over the past several weeks, Trump has begun accusing his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, of deliberately trying to keep schools closed for no reason other than to damage Trump’s…
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