President Joe Biden has corrected his press secretary, Jen Psaki, confirming that schools will open for face-to-face classes in late April.
Biden noted that Psaki was wrong when she reported that his plan to reopen schools would only get half of the children back in the classroom for just one day a week.
“That’s not true. There was a miscommunication,” Biden said regarding Psaki’s statements.
In an interview with CNN, the President said he wants schools fully reopened by the end of his first 100 days in office. His statements clash with some Democratic lawmakers and the head of the CDC, who, despite scientific evidence, say it is not yet safe to return to face-to-face classes.
Biden said he would be “close” to meeting his goal of reopening most K-8 schools by the end of April: “I think a lot of them will do it five days a week, the goal will be five days a week.”
However, he admitted that his reopening goal does not apply to high schools or colleges because of a “higher contagion factor.”
Biden is under increasing pressure to demand the reopening schools, something teachers’ unions have resisted after the nation’s leading health experts said it is safe to do so without teachers being vaccinated.
Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration, there have been different official versions regarding the reopening of schools. While the President has assured that they will be open for his first 100 days in office, his chief of staff, Ron Klain, said that virtual learning should take longer.
Then, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it would be “optimal,” but not essential, for all teachers to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom, and warned that reopening schools in 100 days “may not happen.”
Added to these are recent statements by the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who said that “more resources” are needed to return to face-to-face classes.
The CDC recently recommended that all schools implement the following measures to reopen their doors: use of facemasks, six-foot distance between people, and that the same groups of students attend classes to limit the number of people who must be quarantined in case of outbreaks of infection. Vaccinations were not a prerequisite for teachers to return to schools.
“We need to make sure we get out of the red zones and do our part as a society to get out of the red zones to reduce transmission rates, and we need to do the work to put in place all of those mitigation strategies in all of these schools,” Walensky added.
If the country waits to “get out of the red zones,” then it appears that schools will not open any time soon, as Biden had promised in his campaign.
Experts around the world have warned of the long-term damage of school closures due to the lack of learning for millions of children.
A report published in The Lancet notes that the charity Save the Children predicted that by the end of 2020 half a million more children worldwide would be forced into marriage and a million more girls would become pregnant as an indirect result of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The cost of school closures, in terms of lost education, potential exposure to abuse and, in some countries, the premature end of schooling in favor of work or marriage could have devastating social impacts that will blight a generation of children,” it states.
Margaret A. Honein, lead author of the JAMA report, quoted by The Washington Post, said, “The bottom line is that with appropriate prevention efforts we can keep transmission in schools and educational settings at a fairly low level.”
The researcher added that the studies showed that even in places with high infection rates there is no evidence that schools transmit the virus at higher levels than those observed in the community. She clarified, however, that this will always depend on continuing to take all sanitary precautions.