President Trump and his administration are demanding that schools across America re-open for in-person lessons in Fall. To ensure that their wishes are met, they have enacted a two-fold plan. Firstly, they threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that refuse to re-open. Secondly, they warned that they will send home any international students who are taking entirely remote classes. However, they are still being met with resistance.
In the days since this announcement, both Harvard and MIT have said they intend to sue the administration. They hope to block the rule about sending international students back to their home countries.
Addressing Harvard’s desire to stay remote come Fall, Trump said, “They ought to be ashamed of themselves. That’s called the easy way out.”
Many opposing voices would point to the fact that there is no easy way out. Schools lack real answers as to how they’re expected to safely return to in-person school without further spreading the virus.
Trump Lacks Plan to Safely Reinstate Classes
This news comes amid many states experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases. Neither Trump nor Betsy Devos, Education Secretary, have put forth plans for how they intend to re-open schools in accordance with CDC guidelines. At present, the CDC asks that the public practice social distancing, wear their masks, and avoid public events. Local authorities make the law of the land when it comes to businesses reopening. But many have had to take steps back again to prevent their hospital ICUs from reaching full capacity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that policy should stem from the goal of having students physically present in school. They implore that “importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”
This sentiment bears some consideration. But the problem remains that schools lack clear guidance and proper funding to safely re-open. Education representatives have asked for $200 billion in federal funding. Classrooms do not have the room to practice social distancing as it stands. Federal aid could help fix that. But the economic recession has caused just $13.5 billion to be approved. Without monetary or moral support, schools struggle to create sound plans.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia summed up the feelings of many co-workers. “They have zero credibility for how to best support students, and how to reopen classrooms safely.”
Fairfax County Public Schools acknowledged problems, stating, “We would all prefer to have our school year, this fall, as a ‘normal’ in-person school year. However, the health and safety of our staff, our students, and our community must outweigh all other factors. We are following the guidance of local, state, and federal health officials in developing our return-to-school plan.”
Studies do not yet show much data about young students catching or spreading the coronavirus. Even if students prove less likely to fall ill or experience health risk, they aren’t the only ones returning to school. Teachers span all ages and levels of health. Many children live with elderly family members. They carry the risk of taking it home to their loved ones. The idea of returning to school appeals to many but it carries liabilities too.
Currently, no states have released comprehensive plans as to how to make this happen. One can even see division amidst the four largest states. So far Governor Cuomo of New York has been the most direct. And even then, all he could say was that there are not yet plans to reopen schools. “We want kids back in school for a number of reasons. But we’re not going to say children should go back to school until we know it’s safe.”