- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

‘Hurdles’ for reopening schools need bigger picture

Billions of federal dollars are being funneled to schools to help with in-person safety and reopening efforts, but as the Associated Press reported, some “hurdles” [1] to getting kids back in the classroom cannot be overcome with money.

These hurdles, however, require some deeper exploration.

The hurdles to in-person returns, according to the AP article, are:

One hurdle not mentioned by the AP was the U.S. Department of Education’s own administrator’s lack of assurance that five-days-a-week education is viable this fall. Prior to the AP article being published, DOE Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in an MSNBC interview [10] last week that it is “premature to tell” if schools should resume full-time, in-person learning. Only 45% of pre-K–8 are currently full-time in person, he said.

“One thing I know as a former commissioner of education, COVID-19 numbers will dictate how we move to reopen schools,” he said.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said in his interview with Cardona that teachers’ unions have been blamed by some as a “chief obstacle to getting back to in-person learning.”

Cardona failed to address the possible role of teachers’ unions directly, saying instead that “teachers have bent over backwards” to make it through the past year and “all educators want children in school, they just want it done safely.” 

What constitutes “safely” is often the sticking point. Just this week, Oakland Unified School District in California began bringing students back in a phased approach for in-person learning after reaching a deal with the teachers’ union. However, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said not all schools would be able to open [11] on time because less than 40% of district teachers agreed to come back by March 30.

Further south, it was revealed this week teachers in the San Diego Unified School District were, during their spring break on a volunteer basis, providing in-person instruction to undocumented minors [12] at the convention center, while the district’s own students still had not received in-person learning.

“The hypocrisy, of these undocumented girls getting in-person education, shows the ridiculousness of the political science of this COVID virus has become,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement [13]

Thus far, only local news and right-leaning outlets have reported on this situation. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed it [14]at a briefing, retorting that San Diego students would be returning to the classroom soon. Fox News’ Kristin Fisher clarified the students would return in person part-time.

“Does the White House think that this sends the right message to these 130,000 kids in San Diego and their parents, who’ve been stuck at home for the last year?” Fisher asked. Psaki said context of upcoming hybrid learning is important and that “we, of course, want that to be five days a week, and we’re confident we’ll get there early next month.”

Just like the Biden administration promised to open schools in his first 100 days and then rolled the goal back [15] to mean K-8 receiving at least one day a week in the classroom.

Trust the scientists. Trust the CDC. Just wait until we get vaccines. Yet with study after study and updated guideline after guideline, the ball to fully reopening classrooms for many students suffering academically [16] and mentally [17] continues to be punted further down the academic calendar.