The 2020-21 school year has been anything but normal. Across the country, school systems have had to balance education and health in a way that's never been done before, with completely mixed results. While some schools returned to in-person learning in August, many others have been completely remote all year, and still others have had some variation in between.
But at long last, the CDC has offered a glimmer of hope, providing a roadmap for schools to re-open.
The agency does not have the authority to mandate schools re-opening, but it cites strong evidence that in-person learning can return as long as schools emphasize mask wearing, proper sanitization, and social distancing. Vaccination of teachers is helpful, but not required for said plan. They say that lower grade levels in particular can reopen safely, as younger students are not seen as at-risk of getting or spreading the coronavirus.
In addition, the agency urges officials to use current case counts and transmission rates in order to make the best decision for each school district, avoiding sending students back in-person if community spread is high.
President Biden's coronavirus relief package includes $130 billion to help schools more adequately keep teachers and students safe, including PPE, test kits in schools, and more. The President made it cleared after his inauguration that he wanted all American schools to be learning in-person again within his first 100 days in office, and he hopes this guidance helps provide educators with the information and resources needed to do so. In addition to the science supporting that in-person learning is more effective for students than virtual options, there is also hope that a return to in-classroom education would allow parents to return to work who have been forced to stay home with children attending school remotely.
At this time, there is no national plan to return to in-person learning, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction!