Here are 22 questions Betsy DeVos hasn’t answered about reopening schools during COVID-19 pandemic
It’s no secret that Education Sec. Betsy DeVos wants to see schools reopen in August after the coronavirus pandemic closed school doors early in many places, but she’s been noticeably less clear in explaining just how the federal government plans to help schools reopen safely. The lack of federal guidance has left many school districts scrambling to put together reopening plans, with some simply deciding not to. Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts, California's largest public school districts, announced Monday they will only hold remote classes this fall, according to The New York Times. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is basing school reopening plans on regional infection rates based on a seven-day average. He said Monday if they rise above 9% after the first week of August, schools won't be allowed to reopen. “We’re not going to use our children as guinea pigs,” Cuomo said.
We’ve asked parents, teachers, and other school staff members what questions they would like answered before schools reopen. (Note: Devos hasn’t answered any of them.) Here 22 of them:
- What, if any, federal requirements exist for schools to reopen during a pandemic?
- What is the federal government doing to ensure that each school can afford to hire a nurse during this pandemic?
- What will the federal government do to ensure that any added resources Congress approves trickle down to schools serving mostly Black and brown students—populations facing a significantly higher risk of catching COVID-19?
- Will teachers and staff members get additional paid sick leave if they test positive for COVID-19?
- Will teachers and staff members who are in high-risk groups for catching COVID-19 be required to return to school to get paid?
- How long are teachers required to quarantine if they test positive?
- Are teachers and students who test positive for COVID-19 required to retest after quarantining to return to school?
- Will daily temperature screenings be required, and how will the federal government ensure schools have the resources needed to complete them?
- If a teacher tests positive for the coronavirus, will everyone he or she comes into contact with also be required to quarantine, then retest for COVID-19?
- What will be required for substitute teachers to be reinstated after testing positive for COVID-19?
- What are the steps schools throughout the nation are required to take if a student tests positive?
- What measures will be in place to protect schools from legal liability if a student, teacher, or other staff member catches COVID-19 at school?
- What measures will be in place to protect students, teachers, and other staff members who catch COVID-19 at school and may need financial support and help with medical costs?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends “physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.” How are schools supposed to pay for that?
- How will schools pay to make sure all water systems and features are safe to use after a prolonged shutdown, which is another CDC recommendation?
- How will schools pay for additional staff members and cleaning supplies needed to frequently clean surfaces?
- The CDC recommends schools support “healthy hygiene behaviors by providing adequate supplies, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol [for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer], paper towels, tissues, disinfectant wipes, cloth face coverings [as feasible] and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans.” How will the federal government make sure schools have enough money to do that when that has not been the case at many schools serving majority Black and brown populations even before the coronavirus?
- How frequently will schools be required to clean bathrooms, gyms, and classrooms, and how does that requirement change if someone in contact with one of those areas tests positive for COVID-19?
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has maintained that if regional infection rates based on a seven-day average rise above 9% after the first week of August, schools won't be allowed to reopen. What will the federal government do to make sure districts tie the decision to reopen or close schools based on coronavirus infection rates?
- Will each student, teacher, and staff member be required to wear a mask in school?
- How will schools pay to ensure that students who qualify for free and reduced lunch also be supplied masks?
- How will schools be held accountable for completing all recommended preparation outlined by the CDC before reopening, and how will the federal government support them with resources and funding?
This is in no way a comprehensive list, so please feel free to drop your own questions in the comments.