School Reopening Wars Loom, As Feds, Unions, Admins Appear Far Apart On Return To Campuses

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With about a month to go until the start of the new school year, the battle lines are being drawn over whether US students will return to campuses or continue online schooling.

The stakes being anted include federal and state funding, health and safety issues, and union rules and compliance. None of the potential winners in this war are clear to parents, many of them facing child care and transportation issues dependent on knowing what will happen.

Meanwhile, new cases of coronavirus continue to rise. CNN reported Sunday that three Arizona teachers who shared a classroom were infected with coronavirus despite following strict safety protocols, and one has died.

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Fox News Sunday that she intends to have students back in classrooms this fall.

“Parents are expecting that this fall their kids are going to have a full-time experience with their learning, and we need to follow through on that promise,” DeVos said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Kids cannot afford to not continue learning.”

She added that it’s “not a matter of if,” but a “matter of how.” She claimed staying at home has caused educational progress to lag, and could lead to mental, emotional and social issues for students.

“They’ve fallen behind this spring, we need to ensure they’re back in a classroom situation wherever possible and whenever possible, and fully functioning, fully learning,” she said.

The LAUSD teachers union has already said that going back to campuses is not an option for the Aug. 18 start of the new semester.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, echoed that sentiment, saying, there’s “no way” schools across the country could reopen this fall because of a lack of federal funding.

“There’s no way that you’re going to have full-time schools for all the kids and all the teachers the way we used to have it,” Weingarten said on New York’s WABC radio station on Sunday. “Once we have a vaccine, I hope we can get back to that.”

DeVos said the administration is “looking at all the options.”

“Because it’s a promise of the American people, to students and their families, and we want to make sure that promise is followed through on,” she said.


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