As students begin to head back to the classroom – either virtually or in person – this month begins the most uncertain school year in recent memory.
While some public health experts have expressed apprehension about reopening schools, President Donald Trump gave a full-throated defense for bringing back students into classroom full time this fall. Trump hosted a group of educators and school administrators at the White House on Wednesday.
Amid Trump’s effort to reopen schools, the CDC released updated guidance last month that emphasizes reopening schools. The new guidance contradicts previous guidance, which recommended closing schools during periods of substantial community transmission.
The updated guidance said that extended school closures are harmful to children and can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs.
During an event with educators on Wednesday, Trump said not only should students return to the classroom, but he decried hybrid schedules, which incorporates a blend of in-person and virtual learning. Proponents of hybrid schedules say that they allow for students to have some in-person learning while opening more classroom space for social distancing.
But the president is not a fan.
“The concept of every other day seems a little ridiculous, right?” Trump said. “If you are going to do it, you do it. If you are not going to do it, the concept of going back even from a management standpoint from the school, every other day seems very strange.”
Trump once again called on Congress to pass $105 billion in education funding, which House Democrats have also pushed for as part of a broader stimulus plan. While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House is open to doing a piecemeal approach to a stimulus package, House Democrats have pushed for an all-encompassing bill.
Some of the funding for schools could be used to help districts with additional costs associated with mitigating the risk of the virus.
Trump said that the funds should follow the students. He has previously said that if schools opt for online learning, they should not receive federal funds.
“If the school is closed, you know, why are we paying if a school is closed?” Trump asked. “Why are we paying the school if it is closed? I would rather give it to the student, the parents, and you do your own thing, and to me it makes a lot of sense.”
While Trump is eager for a full return to school, there are several cautionary anecdotes from several districts that opened earlier this month.
Most notably, the Cherokee School District in Georgia reported on Tuesday 59 students and employees tested positive for the coronavirus following its reopening. The district is now asking 925 employees and students to quarantine for two weeks. The district’s Etowah High School will remain closed until August 31 due to the outbreak.