New Jersey’s largest teachers’ union has some specific health demands it wants met before schools return to in-person instruction this fall. In a document obtained by reporter Alex Berenson, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) calls for required testing of all students and staff the week prior to the start of school, mandatory testing on a weekly basis after that, and “door-to-door” mask wearing, from the bus to school and back home again.
Insanity in New Jersey: the @njea - the state teachers union - plans to demand #SARSCoV2 tests for all students before they return to school, WEEKLY tests, and DOOR-TO-DOOR mandatory masks for all students. pic.twitter.com/1tb112jGNG— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) July 13, 2020
Additional requirements would include daily temperature and wellness checks, social distancing, physical barriers in classrooms and on buses as needed, staggered lunchtimes, and the elimination of buffet-style food service.
The proposed stipulations come even as the CDC has stated that it "does not recommend universal testing of all students and staff.” The CDC has also noted that based on available evidence, most children “do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults.” In fact, statistics from the Center have shown that school-aged children are one of the age groups least at risk of dying of COVID-19: those under 15 years old are 43 times less likely to die of the disease than those aged 25–34.
The demands took heat from conservatives on social media, some of whom called the plan "child abuse" and warned it would "traumatize" children.
The NJEA’s demands are emblematic of the controversy raging over reopening schools this fall. President Trump has expressed his belief in getting students back in the classroom and has threatened to withhold federal funding for those who don’t reopen, a position Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has echoed.
Now that we have witnessed it on a large scale basis, and firsthand, Virtual Learning has proven to be TERRIBLE compared to In School, or On Campus, Learning. Not even close! Schools must be open in the Fall. If not open, why would the Federal Government give Funding? It won’t!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2020
But others, like the National Education Association, have pushed back on the Trump Administration’s calls.
“I double dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breathe that air without any preparation for how we’re going to bring our kids back safely,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia told CNN in a recent interview. She also said the White House’s stance on reopening schools was one of the reasons the organization was backing Joe Biden in the presidential race.
“I double dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breathe that air without any preparation for how we’re going to bring our kids back safely.”— New Day (@NewDay) July 8, 2020
National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia says schools can only reopen if done so safely. pic.twitter.com/d13sVYr5oS
In the end, going back to school this fall might come down to whether parents think that it is worth sending their children into an environment with such strict guidelines--or they may opt out all together.