By Daniel E. Slotnik
The two largest U.S. unions representing educators expressed approval on Friday of new federal guidelines calling for schools to fully reopen, while acknowledging that more challenges lay ahead with children under 12 not eligible for vaccination.
The new recommendations, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, come after students, teachers and parents have endured a disruptive school year characterized by shifting guidance, school closures and hastily implemented remote learning plans to contain the coronavirus.
Education has been a flash point since the pandemic unfurled, when many teachers and families were frightened of in-person schooling. But remote learning has proved an inadequate substitute for many parents and students, and virtually all major districts plan to reopen schools full time in the fall — though they still need to convince some hesitant parents to send their children back.
Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, said in a statement on Friday that “our top priority is to ensure that our nation’s students can safely learn in-person in their schools and classrooms.”
The new C.D.C. guidance will help educators achieve that goal, union leaders said.
Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Alliance, the largest teachers’ union in the country, said the guidelines were an “important road map for reducing the risk of Covid-19 in schools” in a statement.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers who has already pushed for schools to fully reopen this fall, said in her own statement that “the guidance confirms two truths: that students learn better in the classroom, and that vaccines remain our best bet to stop the spread of this virus.”
The new recommendations call for vaccinating as many people as possible, mask-wearing for unvaccinated people in schools, three feet of social distancing between students and layering different preventive tactics.
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