Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is calling on schools to maintain in-person learning, as millions of U.S. school children prepare to return to classes after holiday breaks amid the spread of the omicron variant.
Cardona said students should be in the classroom ‘every day’ when possible – as some schools sent students home early before Christmas amid the spike of coronavirus infections. Some schools have announced temporary returns to ‘virtual’ learning amid the outbreak. Many are hurrying to implement new testing policies.
‘If you are fully staffed to provide a safe school environment, students should be in the classroom full time every day. We’ve done this before and we did it before vaccines were available. If you recall, we reopened schools this year, right at the height of the Delta variant,’ he told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’
He was responding to a question about whether schools should consider going back to remote classes or delaying the start of in-person school.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told ABC’s ‘ Good Morning America’ that students should be in class every day if their schools are fully-staffed
Cardona pointed to the availability of vaccines and mitigation strategies – as well as a growing body of research on the learning loss associated with keeping students away from school.
‘We know what works we know mitigation strategies work. Now we have access to vaccines for children as young as five. We know what to do. And let’s remember our students suffer when they’re not in the classroom,’ he said.
‘We need to do everything in our power to provide in person learning options to students as soon as possible and making sure that we have the resources that are available [through] the American rescue plan being used to fully staff our schools provide testing protocols, mitigation strategies, so that our students stay in the classroom.’
A parent, center, completes a form granting permission for random COVID-19 testing for students as he arrives with his daughter, left, at P.S. 134 Henrietta Szold Elementary School, in New York on Dec. 7, 2021
Cardona made the comments on ‘Good Morning America’ after many school districts sent kids home early for holiday breaks
Cardona spoke as the nation recorded 489,267 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday amid the rapid rise of the omicron variant – the most of any country in the world.
A number of school systems are rushing to impose new covid testing requirements as they prepare for students to return from holiday breaks.
Washington, D.C. extended its winter break by two days to allow for distribution of tests, and Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that students must test negative before returning to school.
New York and California are among the states sending millions of rapid test kits to schools, amid a nationwide shortage.
Prince George’s County, Maryland announced in mid-December that it was switching to remote learning through mid-January amid a spike in cases.
Cardona didn’t respond direction when asked if he could ‘guarantee’ that any school or district that wanted tests could get them. He instead pointed to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which included funds for covid relief.
‘Since the American rescue plan was passed in March, money was made available, $10 billion, for testing, in schools and districts across the country have been engaged in setting up testing protocols going as far back as March. So the testing supply that schools are using is different than what you might see happening at CVS or Walgreens where folks are looking for tests,’ he said.
‘We’ve also partnered with Rockefeller Foundation, who are working to get school systems set up for testing. Some of the guidance that we put out last week shows examples of that and provides resources for districts that are interested in getting those systems set up to move on that,’ he said.
Cardona said he was ‘pleased’ with new Centers for Disease Control guidelines shortening quarantine and isolation periods, as the requirements sidelined teachers, just like they have other essential workers.
‘I’m really pleased with this because to me, what this is going to do is allow for some of the staffing issues to go away,’ he said. ‘We know that many schools couldn’t open because teachers or educators were in quarantine. The fact that it’s shortened now allows for educators to get back to the classroom and our students to have schools open.’