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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release on Friday a color-coded guide for a phased reopening of schools as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, according to a report.
The White House has declined to wade into a battle between teachers unions and fed-up parents by deferring to the release of CDC guidelines.
The CDC is likely to outline four color codes for school districts — blue, yellow, orange and red — that contain different guidance, CBS News reports.
Even in the most restrictive category, schools could reopen if they regularly test students and staff, according to the medical authorities.
“Blue” and “yellow” areas of the country have lower rates of coronavirus transmission and will be encouraged to reopen full in-person learning, with standard precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing, according to CBS.
“Orange” areas will be encouraged to adopt a “hybrid” model with some in-person learning.
The “red” zones would be most restrictive.
If red districts don’t routinely test students and staff, they would be encouraged to use hybrid models for elementary schools but remain virtual-only for middle and high schools. Schools that do routinely test, however, are given a green light to resume classes with reduced attendance, or begin hybrid models.
Although most US public schools are controlled by county and city officials, the White House and federal health authorities have significant power to sway public opinion and overcome teacher concerns about infections.
Preliminary research found low rates of virus transmission within schools and President Biden’s CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last week said schools can safely reopen even without teacher vaccination.
But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Walensky’s assertion, saying last week that she was speaking only in her “personal capacity.”
This week, Psaki startled parents Wednesday by outlining a seemingly unambitious Biden reopening plan with only half of schools open one day per week, by late April.
“His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50 percent — open by day 100 of his presidency. And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week,” Psaki said.
On Thursday, Psaki said that parents “shouldn’t be” satisfied with that low bar adding that the Biden administration hopes for broader reopening.
“We are leaning into science, we are letting the science and medical experts lead, and then his objective is to ensure there is the funding to deliver on that,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that billions of dollars are currently available to reopen schools, but that the funds have not been dispersed.
“Just six weeks ago, Congress sent another huge sum to help schools. It brought the total for K-12 to about $68 billion. As of the latest update, only $4 billion of the 68 had been spent. Ninety-four percent of the K-12 funding we have already provided is still in the pipeline,” McConnell said.
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