(CNN) – Four months after schools closed across the country because of coronavirus, fall classes are set to start in just a few weeks.
School districts nationwide are now scrambling to come up with a plan reopen safely.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said at a CNN coronavirus town hall Thursday night that they stand by their original guidance on reopening schools.
“I think there’s commonality in the schools, and the school leadership, and the teachers, and the administrators that we all want to protect the safety of the children that are in schools,” Redfield said. “We stand by our guidance, we think it’s an important strategy for helping these schools reopen.”
For months, school districts nationwide have been scrambling, trying to figure out just how to reopen safely.
“So if you think about students per table, possibly two students per table or it might even turn into one student per table, as we think about having just about 11 students in a classroom at a time,” Grenita Lathan, the interim superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently told the city’s more than one million public school students they should plan to only spend one to three days a week inside a classroom. The other school days will be held online.
“Some points in the week you are learning in person in the classroom,” said Blasio. “At other points in the week, you are learning remotely. “
Local officials have relied on guidelines issues by state and federal health authorities as well as the CDC. One of its top recommendations has been to maintain social distancing among students.
The hybrid model, where children would be divided into smaller groups, rotating hours and days in class, seems to be among the most feasible. But after months of inaction, President Trump’s administration is now pushing hard for schools to reopen full time in the fall, an endeavor made even more challenging as numerous states continue to see spikes in cases.
In Florida, the education commissioner issued an emergency order this week requiring all schools to open “at least” five days per week for all students.
“If you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.
But some educators in the state are now saying they won’t follow the order if cases don’t start to go down.
“I think it would be counter-intuitive with positivity cases increasing, with restaurants just this week being shut down again, for us to pack up schools,” said Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said schools would have to offer more flexibility.
In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey announced that in person classes will be delayed until at least Aug. 17.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom said that schools will reopen when the data says it’s safe to do so.
Experts say it didn’t have to be this frustrating, but there’s still time to get it right.
“The time to plan is absolutely right now. In particular, when we think about healthy building strategies, schools have to be paying attention to and looking at their mechanical and ventilation systems right now. This is not something that can be started in early August,” said Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Assistant Professor Joseph Allen.
Meanwhile, the US saw another record daily rise in COVID-19 cases Thursday, with 63,247 infections reported.
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