President Donald Trump's administration is officially pushing for a reopening of schools across the U.S. in the fall, despite the rising numbers of coronavirus cases across the country. The announcement came Tuesday when administration officials framed the effort as the means to protect the nation's "most vulnerable" students due to the services schools provide.
The officials parrotted much of Trump's rhetoric, saying school closure disruption has had "significant negative impact" across the country. "It's important to consider schools as high-priority settings within the community given the unique and critical role they play in our society," one senior administration official said, according to CNN. "The local context and needs of all school districts are unique, and as such, plans for returning to school should be tailored in a way that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 spread while providing students with the critical services, academic resources, and social-emotional supports that they need. [The] CDC encourages school districts to make reopening plans that anticipate COVID-19 cases, minimize the risk of spread, and then limit the need for the potential of school closures."
When explicitly asked about the rising number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the U.S., the official claimed there were "a variety of different strategies that schools can adopt that really minimize the risk and can open these schools quite safely," though no specifics were provided. They did, however, concede there was some risk, admitting that students and staffers could get infected and "somehow then transmit that infection to someone who's more vulnerable in the community," adding that the administration will "double down on our commitment to protecting the vulnerable." Details weren't provided for that instance, either.
Also on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence held a call with the nation's governors on the subject of reopening schools, which will make it the second such call on the topic. Another Trump administration official also touted a "robust afternoon discussing the importance" of school reopening on Tuesday, where teachers, administrators, parents and students are expected to discuss best practices with how to proceed with the upcoming school year.
A CDC senior official also told the outlet on Monday that "schools should be the first to open and the last to close," in a pandemic such as this. "Kids need to physically be in school." To help that happen safely, the agency is planning to release new guidance on how best K-12 students can physically return to the classroom this year, although no details were provided.