WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva led 18 Members of Congress in a letter to CDC Director Robert R. Redfield calling for the CDC to update community guidance for COVID-19 to center them around the ability for schools to open safely. While the CDC formally recognizes the critical need for in-person learning, current guidance does not offer communities levels of prioritization for setting openings, meaning that often schools are closed while other non-essential businesses are open.
“Safely getting students back to school should be our top priority, not an afterthought,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The siloed guidelines from the CDC created a haphazard, patchwork approach that has resulted in prolonged school closures while transmission continues unchecked. Children across this nation are suffering because our policies have not prioritized controlling community spread, so we can get them back in the classroom sooner and safely.”
“Rather than rushing to open schools in dangerous situations, the Administration must do more to get our students back into the classrooms safely,” the lawmakers wrote. “Updated guidance should advise states and localities to restrict settings or points of contagion until schools can safely reopen. Levels of prioritization for openings and closures should be dictated so that localities know definitively when it is appropriate to close or open various establishments within the communities. For the safety of everyone (including nonessential businesses and gatherings), schools should be restricted until community transmission is low enough to safely open community-wide establishments. Parents across this nation fail to understand how bars, churches and other social settings can be open with no restrictions while schools are forced to do the responsible thing and remain shuttered.”
The letter was endorsed by American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), Council of Administrators of Special Education, and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“Special education directors urge the CDC to prioritize opening schools safely, using the best science available. That means clear guidance on controlling community transmission before schools are opened to ensure students and staff have a safe, healthy learning environment,” said Phyllis Wolfram, Executive Director, Council of Administrators of Special Education.
“Principals and teachers thrive on the energy of school buildings vibrant with activity. And for many students, schools are sanctuaries from emotional strains of the pandemic. But they are not sanctuaries from the virus itself,” said Ronn Nozoe, chief executive officer of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “Since the start of the pandemic, principals have had to become public health experts navigating the maze of inconsistent guidance derived from elements of science, politics, and community pressure. Principals will continue to do all they can to keep students learning. All they ask of the CDC is not to gamble with the health of students, educators, and surrounding communities without consideration for the school’s role in the larger community ecosystem.”
Click here to read the letter.