(AP) – President Donald Trump says states should seriously consider reopening their public schools before the end of the school year, although dozens have said that it would be unsafe for students to return until summer or autumn.
Trump made a statement on Monday with the governors, which included discussing how their economies could be reopened.
“Some of you may be thinking about school openings because a lot of people want school openings. It’s not a big issue, small children did very well in this disaster that we all went through, ”he said. While addressing Vice President Mike Pence, Trump added that it is something “that you can seriously consider and maybe go on with”.
According to a record by The Associated Press, none of the governors of the call responded to the proposal.
The reopening of schools is seen as the key to getting the economy going again. Without a safe place for children, many parents would have difficulty returning to work.
However, some education officials say that opening schools quickly would bring high risk and little reward, especially as the end of the school year approaches.
“Will they open again for two weeks? Three weeks? “Daniel Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said,” It’s not the right thing. Especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our students. “
At a press conference at the White House on Monday, Trump admitted that there is little time left in the school year, although many states are considering bringing children back to class.
“I think you will see that many schools are open, even if it is only for a very short period of time,” he said. “Young people seem to do very well with the consequences of this malicious virus. Young people seem to be doing very well, so I know that there are some governors who are not necessarily ready to open up states, but they may be ready to open up school systems. “
Schools across the country have closed during the coronavirus pandemic, and dozens of states have ordered their schools to remain closed for the rest of the school year. Few have publicly discussed previous openings, including Montana, where school districts can resume classes on May 7.
Officials in many districts have said it is still unclear whether students will be able to return to the classroom next fall. And even if they do, many are planning to take social distance measures that could make the school look radically different than in the past.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on CNN that it was “far too early” to reopen his city’s schools, adding that “you don’t get much credit for moving too quickly to move to open again “.
In response to Trump’s comments, one of the country’s largest teacher unions said there was still a lot to do before schools could open safely. The American Federation of Teachers said there should be better tests and follow-ups for the virus, and schools should have access to personal protective equipment.
“It is good that the President understands that the reopening of society and the economy depends on the successful and safe reopening of schools,” said Randi Weingarten, union president. “But the question shouldn’t be whether we open schools, but how we do it safely. COVID-19 is a terrible virus that has already cost many lives, and without a vaccine there is no magic wand or elixir, as the President would have us believe. “
If schools reopen and spread the corona virus too quickly, schools could be held legally liable, said Francisco Negrón, chief legal officer of the National School Boards Association. And while coronavirus cases were mild in U.S. children, many schools have students with conditions that could make them vulnerable, he said.
“The primary concern for schools will be the safety of their students and the safety of their staff,” said Negrón.
In the CDC draft guidelines for schools, the agency proposed a three-phase reopening process for schools in communities with “low COVID-19 spread and those with confidence that the incidence of infections is really low”.
The guidance encourages schools to create isolation areas for students who develop symptoms. And if it is found that someone with COVID-19 has been in the building, schools are advised to close for a day or two to clean and disinfect.
Domenech from the Association of School Administrators said the guidelines pose significant logistical hurdles. Trying to keep younger students at a distance of 1.8 meters could be impossible, he said, and many schools have so many students that they would violate the proposed restrictions on large gatherings.
However, schools are looking for ways to limit student interaction when they reopen, including plans to involve only a subset of students at a time. For example, schools bring half of the students for the morning and half for the afternoon. While at home, students could continue to take classes online, Domenech said.
“Everyone wants the kids back,” he said. “We understand the impact this has on the economy. They have working parents and they need their children to be safe and in a school environment so that they can work again. Sooner or later the schools will have to open again. The question is how. “