But we can do more. Shortly before taking office, I set an ambitious but achievable goal of opening most K-8 schools by the end of my first 100 days. I’ve said all along that this is a national imperative — one that can only be achieved if Congress provides states and communities with the resources they need to get it done safely through the American Rescue Plan.
It is also a goal we can meet if we follow the science. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, has provided the best available scientific evidence on how to reopen schools safely.
These scientific guidelines tell us that our schools are safer when we have appropriate distancing in classrooms and on school buses, when masks are worn consistently and properly, when handwashing occurs regularly, and when we are able to effectively respond to cases through testing and contact tracing, and when we follow other recommended steps. To meet these guidelines, some schools will need more teachers and support staff to ensure smaller class sizes, more buses and bus drivers to transport our kids safely, more spaces to conduct in-person instruction, and more protective equipment, school cleaning services, and physical alterations to reduce the risk of spread of the virus.
These needs cost money. But the cost of keeping our children, families, and educators safe is nothing when compared with the cost of inaction. Today, an entire generation of young people is on the brink of being set back up to a year or more in their learning. We are already seeing rising mental health concerns due in part to isolation. Educational disparities that have always existed grow wider each day that our schools remain closed and remote learning isn’t the same for every student. Our educators are frontline workers who are doing everything they can to protect and educate our students, despite a lack of resources and as districts face budget crises that risk education jobs. Moms — and dads — are exiting the workforce in astonishing numbers in order to care for and manage the school experience for their children at home, hindering their own opportunities and further undermining the health of our economy.
We have sacrificed so much in the last year. But science tells us that if we support our children, educators, and communities with the resources they need, we can get kids back to school safely in more parts of the country sooner.
When my Secretary of Education is confirmed, I will task him with working alongside school administrators, educators, and parents to safely accelerate the process of school reopenings. As many states continue to follow the CDC’s recommendation to prioritize teachers for vaccination, I urge all states to follow suit.
And given the irreversible costs of inaction, Congress needs to pass the American Rescue Plan right away — for our children, our families, our community, and our country.
We know what we need to do.
We need to move fast.