The Trump administration supports reopening schools this fall, in addition to sending 125 million reusable masks to school districts they released new guidance this week for districts to reopen safely.
The Schools Should Reopen Safely policy is based on three assumed facts by the administration: that prolonged school closures cause harm, children are at low risk for serious illness from Covid-19, and that educating children is a top national priority.
President Trump attended a discussion Wednesday about getting children back to school where the policy was discussed with administration leaders, medical experts and educators. Some of the speakers referenced how the coronavirus pandemic has provided an experiment for virtual learning.
“But the virtual learning is not like being in a classroom, and we’ve learned that, I think, very strongly — in almost all cases. People thought for a long time that would be the answer but it’s — that’s not the answer. The answer is an old-fashioned one,” President Trump said.
The recommendations encourage the use of masks and social distancing, as well as educating students, teachers and staff about Covid-19 symptoms. They follow guidance released earlier this year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The document lists eight recommendations for schools:
- Ensure all students, teachers, and staff understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and its risk factors.
- Require all students, teachers, and staff to self-assess their health every morning before coming to school; if they are symptomatic they should consult their physician.
- Encourage frequent handwashing or hand sanitizing during the school day, beginning upon entrance to the school, by ensuring that handwashing facilities are widely available throughout the school.
- Minimize large indoor group gatherings; hold large gatherings outdoors whenever possible.
- Maintain high standards of hygiene and ventilation within all classrooms, including keeping windows and doors open and running fans and AC units whenever possible.
- Require students, teachers, and staff to socially distance around high-risk individuals.
- Encourage the use of masks when social distancing is not possible.
- Liberally post instructions regarding hygiene and social distancing around the school.
There are also recommendations for high-risk teachers and students, including giving these individuals options to stay home.
“Provide high-risk students, or students who have high-risk family members, the choice to stay home and engage in distance learning,” the guidance states.
The policy is a set of recommendations and not mandatory for schools to reopen. States and districts are able to make their own decisions.