Fauci: Time to talk about reopening schools

“The goal is to have kids back in the classroom,” DeWine said.

School districts nationwide are making plans for the fall, creating contingencies for in-person learning, virtual learning at home and a hybrid of the two, with the last option the most likely for the majority of districts. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued detailed guidelines on how schools can safely reopen.

In his interview, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: “Children can get infected, so, yes, so you’ve got to be careful. You got to be careful for them, and you got to be careful that they may not spread it. Now, to make an extrapolation that you shouldn’t open schools, I think, is a bit of a reach.”

He also said opening schools “depends on the level of viral activity” in a particular area and it is time to be “creative” in reconfiguring classrooms to ensure students are not seated too close together.

“In some situations, there will be no problem for children to go back to school,” he said. “In others, you may need to do some modifications. You know, modifications could be breaking up the class so you don’t have a crowded classroom, maybe half in the morning, half in the afternoon, having children doing alternate schedules. There’s a whole bunch of things that one can do.”

In mid-May, Fauci warned reopening the country too quickly could lead to “needless suffering and death.”

Many education leaders say they are concerned about the costs of making modifications that will allow for safe reopening. State budgets, facing plummeting revenue because of the shutdown of businesses during the pandemic this spring, have less money to provide to school districts, some of which had not recovered from the financial hit of the Great Recession.

“It is already apparent that implementing them will be very costly and significantly change the education landscape. The question becomes, how much are we willing to stray from them for the sake of expediency and/or reducing the costs involved?”

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