Chris Lange, FISM News
Chief White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said schools should reopen after the winter holiday break, contradicting some teachers unions calling for a return to remote learning.
Fauci told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos that risks posed by COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, are outweighed by the harmful effects children suffer from being kept out of school.
“[W]e’ve done the balance so many times over the last year about the deleterious effects of keeping children out of in-physical presence in the school, and it’s very clear that there are some really serious effects about that,” Fauci said, pointing out that children are much safer today than they were at the onset of the pandemic, given that the vaccine has been administered to an “overwhelming majority” of teachers and is currently available for children aged five years and older.
“I think all those things put together, it’s safe enough to get those kids back to school, balanced against the deleterious effects of keeping them out,” he added.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona echoed Fauci’s statements during a Fox News Sunday broadcast. “We’ve been very clear, our expectation is for schools to be open full-time for students for in-person learning,” he said. “We remember the impact of school closures on students last year.”
In direct contrast to both recommendations, several teachers unions have cited ongoing health and safety concerns in their push to keep schools shuttered.
“Massachusetts public school students and their families have struggled with the uncertainty and anxiety of the COVID pandemic for two years. They have the right to know that after the holiday break they are returning to safe schools,” said American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts President Beth Kontos in a statement released Friday. “Given the ever-increasing infection rate and the virulent behavior of the current COVID strain, we know they will not.”
Referring to the virus as “a runaway public health crisis,” Kontos said the state should provide testing for educators and school staff members which “should then be followed by a period of remote learning until the current wave of infections abates.”
The Chicago Teachers Union last week threatened to strike if their demand for negative coronavirus tests for all students as a prerequisite for in-person learning is not met. In lieu of testing, CTU has called for “a two-week occupational pause.”
Cardona, however, pointed out that schools should have already implemented strategies for testing symptomatic students while American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten says it isn’t that simple.
“I am concerned that lots of districts don’t have the infrastructure for testing,” Weingarten told the Washington Post Thursday. “It’s going to be really, really bumpy, and there is going to need to be a lot of grace.”
While Cardona acknowledges that “there may be bumps in the road,” he says schools should operate under the “default” objective of providing “full-time, in-person learning for our students,” adding, “They’ve suffered enough.”