Eleven months into the pandemic, schools remain closed in many parts of the country. With so many teachers still waiting to be vaccinated, the question of whether to reopen has been the subject of passionate debate in cities like Chicago, where teachers just returned to classrooms after lengthy negotiations. In San Francisco, the city attorney is suing the school district for its failure to offer in-person instruction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has acknowledged that in-person learning can be done safely, on Friday released guidance for how to reopen schools safely. Its recommendations include universal masking, hand washing, social distancing, contact tracing and cleaning.
According to the new guidance, in order to fully reopen elementary, middle and high schools for in-person instruction, rates of Covid-19 infection in a community must be very low; currently, few places in the United States meet the agency’s criteria. In the meantime, bringing children into classrooms part time or restricting attendance to younger children may remain the norm in many places.
The C.D.C. has provided a good framework to get more students back to classrooms. But the guidance makes it difficult to do what’s best for the country’s children: to get all students, in all grades, into classrooms five days a week, in person.