CDC Lays Out Next Steps for Reopening Schools

Reworked guidance is intended to clarify mixed signals from Trump administration
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2021 4:06 PM CST
Reopen Schools, Then Restaurants, CDC Suggests
Students wear masks as they work in a fourth-grade classroom last week at Elk Ridge Elementary School in Buckley, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details a process for reopening schools long shut by the pandemic, tied to local coronavirus transmission rates. The recommendations aren't dramatically different from those issued last year by President Trump's administration, Axios reports. But teachers and parents saw mixed signals in that guidance and had asked for a new version that would be clearer and more helpful. The CDC on Friday issued a 35-page guide for operating schools safely and an 11-page review of the science involved, per the Washington Post. Communities should focus on reopening schools before nonessential businesses, including restaurants, the CDC said. While states should try to vaccinate teachers, that doesn't have to happen before schools open. "K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed," the agency said, "and the first to reopen when they can do so safely."

Infection rates are to be the determinant for the four methods schools can choose. Only when rates are at their highest should learning be limited to remote, the guidance says. Below those levels, schools can use a hybrid of remote and in-person learning or reduce attendance. If transmission rates are low and precautions are in place, schools can go to completely in-person learning. Suggested strategies from the Education Department include holding classes in cafeterias and auditoriums, assigning students to one seat per row on buses and staggering bell schedules. Restarting sports and other extracurricular activities should be a lower priority. The CDC repeated that in-person schools aren't a major driver of community transmission, while acknowledging the virus could well be spread in schools when local rates are high. (More Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stories.)

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