"It's not a matter of if schools should open," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declared at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Wednesday. "It's simply a matter of how."
The CDC released guidance agreeing that in-person learning is imperative, but added that, for the time being, with new spikes in coronavirus cases in several states, distance learning is still the safest option. President Trump pushed back at the CDC's narrative, urging schools to be back in business this fall. He even threatened to withhold funds from districts who don't allow students to return. One of those regions may be New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced that he won't be mandating normal school schedules this fall.
DeVos used Fairfax County, Virginia as an example of what a "disaster" a virtual education can be for students. The school district recently offered parents the option to keep their kids home, or to send them to school for just a few days a week.
“They offered families a so-called choice for this fall: either zero days in schools for their students or two days," she said. "And their springtime attempt at distant learning was a disaster. This cannot happen again in the fall.”
Fairfax GOP agreed with the secretary.
"If #FCPS won’t offer five days a week of instruction this fall, then parents should have the right to use their educational tax dollars elsewhere," said Fairfax County GOP Chairman Steve Knotts.
Fairfax County teacher unions take a different approach, explaining at a town hall last month that they miss the kids, but they want to "feel safe at work."
“I don’t want to leave teaching, but I want to feel safe at work,” said librarian Tiffany Dowling. “Now we are being asked to make a hasty decision for our children and ourselves with so few answers.”
Vice President Mike Pence said it's critical we reopen schools this fall so children don't fall behind in their academics, as well as continue to provide them other vital needs, such as nutrition and counseling. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia spoke about how important it was for parents as well, many of whom are itching to get back to the workforce.
“We want to reopen the schools,” President Trump said at a roundtable on Tuesday. “Everybody wants it. The moms want it, the dads want it, the kids want it. It's time to do it.”
The CDC will be releasing five new guideline documents regarding school reopenings.