Despite a surge in coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says schools should remain open for in-person learning, in a recent interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
In the fight against COVID-19, Secretary Cardona maintains that “our science is better” and “we have better tools.” He adds that “[students] have suffered enough.”
“We’ve been very clear, our expectation is for schools to be open full-time for students for in-person learning,” Cardona shared. “We remember the impact of school closures on students last year.”
In defiance of his statement, more than 2,100 schools are scheduled to close this week.
These school closures are happening despite a federal COVID relief bill that’s allocated $130 billion for schools to safely reopen. Overall, the U.S. government has spent more than $190 billion to assist schools impacted by the pandemic.
Apparently, the billions aren’t enough to keep school districts around the country from closing.
For many parents, such as in the Atlanta School District, they didn’t find out that the first week of January would be online until days before, after being assured that schools would remain open.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, defended the move to distance learning on Twitter.
“There are very real logistical decisions schools are making,” she says. “We know kids do better in person, but the spike is real. We need adequate staff & the safety measures in place including testing, masking ventilation. There is a lot of stress.”
Some parents, like in the Madison School District in Wisconsin, say it wasn’t the online shift that bothered them, but rather the lack of planning on the school’s part.
“I deeply appreciate any decision that was grounded in safety,” explains one parent, Brian Benford. “[B]ut it appears that the superintendent and staff should have indicated that closing schools were a possibility and set up a live forum/Zoom to let parents know that this decision was being considered to address initial concerns. There should have been an attempt to bring in public input.”
The National Parents Union president, Keri Rodrigues, echoed the need for transparency from schools.
“Districts have had two years to adequately plan for this and more than $120 billion in federal funding has flowed into schools,” Rodrigues shared in a statement on Twitter. “Yet, schools are closing on a whim and parents are being left in the dark about how that money is being spent. There is no substitute for in-person learning and there is no excuse for the lack of leadership that is plaguing communities today.”
The local teachers’ union in New York City requested to shift the district online. But the new mayor, Eric Adams, advocates for schools remaining open in no uncertain terms.
“We’re not sending an unclear message of what is going to happen day to day,” says Adams. “I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen day to day, we’re staying open.”
Has your school district switched back to distance learning? Do you think students should be learning in person?