Covid-19: America in a bind over school re-opening

WASHINGTON: An epic political fight is brewing in America over re-opening of schools amid gradual acceptance on all sides that the coronavirus is not going to “disappear” anytime soon. Even a vaccine is now considered some distance away, and should it be produced in the next few months, would take well into next year and beyond to manufacture and distribute.
So in the dubious spirit of “we’ve to get used to it and life should go on,” the Trump administration is now pressing down on more than 130,000 public schools spread across 13500 school districts to re-open fully come September (when U.S schools normally resume after the annual break). The directive comes the face of apprehension on part of administrators and nearly 3.2 million teachers, not to speak of nearly 80 million school children and their parents caught in a bind deciding between safety and education.
All sides accept that children need to get back to school for social and educational wellbeing, but the battle is now about how to ensure they do not catch or transmit the virus. So politically and electorally potent is the issue that President Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden have stepped into the skirmish with their own prescriptions, even as schools across the country are shakily devising plans to resume operations while trying to follow fluid health and social distancing guidelines that is straining already tight budgets.
While the Trump administration is maintaining that risk of transmission among children is low and schools ought to re-open with health guidelines that are not onerous, Biden released an elaborate roadmap that called for nearly $ 90 billion in funding to “ensure schools have the additional resources they need to adapt effectively to Covid-19.”
“Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe and how to make it stick. Forcing educators and students back into classrooms in areas where infection rates are going up or remaining too high is just plain dangerous,” Biden said, rolling out a plan on Friday that includes funding for personal protective equipment; public health and sanitation products; technology improvements, including broadband internet access; and alterations to building ventilation systems, classrooms, schedules, class size, and transportation.
The Trump administration had earlier criticized more modest CDC guidelines such as keeping desk six feet apart and enforcing face masks as too onerous and expensive, while seeking new set of recommendations that have yet to be released. The administration has also blocked the CDC director from testifying before a Congressional committee. In part to offset costs, many schools have proposed a hybrid model where children with go to school two or three days a week, a plan that leaves working parents in a flux.
But the White House is doubling down on forcing schools to re-open fully even as most states across the country have seen a sharp uptick in cases and deaths, maintaining that there is little danger to the children – an argument that is not going down well with teachers and administrators. Not even the startling news on Friday of 85 infants testing positive for Covid-19 in just one county in Texas, a badly affected state, seemed to dissuade the administration from insisting that children are not in danger.
President Trump wants schools to open, “and when he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day. The science should not stand in the way of this,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said earlier this week, before adding, “the science is on our side here.”
Irked by the administration’s insistence on re-opening schools, one teacher had a simply question in a public forum: If it’s safe to resume schools, when will the White House (the people’s house) reopen for public tours?

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