Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Sunday defended the Trump administration’s aggressive push to reopen schools in the fall amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, saying that having schools offering a Hybrid virtual and in-person learning is “not a good choice for families.”
Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union”, DeVos also declined to say whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for schools should be followed consistently.
“The CDC guidelines are just that, supposed to be flexible and meant to be applied depending on the situation,” she said.
These guidelines state that children who meet in groups “can put everyone at risk,” adding that children “can transmit this virus to others who are at increased risk for serious COVID-19 disease.” These guidelines also provide for six feet of social distance and other measures to reduce the risk of spread.
With coronavirus rife in much of the southern United States, where a record number of cases and hospitalizations are reported, schools are struggling to find plans for the upcoming school year.
Some neighborhoods, such as New York’s public schools, are considering such a hybrid model. In recent days, President Donald Trump and his administration have lobbied for schools to reopen completely, with the president saying Democrats want schools to remain closed to harm his chances of being elected. He also threatened to withhold money from areas that would not reopen in the fall.
“School leaders across the country need to make plans to” have students in the classroom, said DeVos. “There will be exceptions to the rule, but the rule should be that children return to school this fall. And where there are few outbreaks or hotspots, which can be treated school by school or on a case-by-case basis. possibility of having children at school. ”
Speaking to ABC “This Week,” Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir said, “We have to do it safely, but out-of-school children risk their social and emotional health, the risk of many suffering. nutrition, recognition of child abuse, child sexual abuse, it is really important to physically bring children back to school. ”
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“But we have to do it safely,” he added. “And the first thing we have to do is that we have to get the virus under control. When we have more control of the virus, we can really think about how to get the kids back to class. “
Among the Trump administration’s guidelines, Giroir said they “tend to be a bit academic and lengthy,” adding that the administration is working to make the additional school guidelines “much more concise so people can really follow them and understand them. “
Responding to DeVos on “State of the Union”, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said the interview with the highest education administration official was evidence “breach of duty for professional misconduct”.
“It’s appalling,” said Pelosi of the efforts to get the kids back to school. “The president and his administration play with the health of our children. We all want our children to go back to school. Teachers do it. Parents do. And the kids do it. But they must return safely. “
“And when you hear what the administration says, we know that they have no appreciation for the failure that brought us to this point,” she added. “Going back to school presents the greatest risk of spreading the coronavirus. They ignore science and ignore governance for that to happen. “
She said the CDC guidelines should be mandatory for schools and said Trump should implement the Defense Production Act to help provide the necessary personal protective equipment and test supplies to school districts.
Alberto Carvalho, director of the Miami-Dade County public school district in Florida, on NBC “Meet the Press,” said the district “will obviously do our best in our community considering where the data is currently located. health “.
“29.1% positivity rate. A month ago it was 6%, “he said of his region. “Our return to school is in six weeks. “
He said if people followed social distancing guidelines and wore masks, among other measures, “the conditions can be appropriate and healthy for students to return to the best model of teaching and learning, which is in person. “
“But we need community collaboration, we need science to drive practice rather than politics influencing what is legitimately a community concern,” he added.
Scott Brabrand, the superintendent of the Fairfax County, Virginia school board, told “State of the Union” that CDC guidelines “simply mean that you can’t put every child in a school with square footage existing. It’s just it’s simple. “
“We are the size of five Pentagons,” he said of the schools he oversees. “You would need five more pentagons of space to be able to safely house all students in public schools in Fairfax County. “
Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Fox News Sunday that it was wrong to issue an ultimatum for the opening of schools.
“Forcing it to follow a tight schedule is not the right approach,” he said, adding, “There will be many challenges in opening schools safely. “
FDA Form Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS Face the Nation that even though “children are less susceptible to infection and less likely to transmit it, less susceptible does not mean that they are not.” not “.
He added that the country “must take measures to ensure that the” coronavirus “does not become an epidemic in children”.