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Sprinkles from the Left

A majority of parents who identified as Democrat said they support in-person schooling for elementary and secondary students (62%; Gallup, published in March 2021)

We need to make sure all students — from every background, circumstance, and zip code — are similarly set up for success. That’s why President Joe Biden has set a goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools for in-person learning within his first 100 days. While this span of time seems brief, teachers, students, and parents know that each day of effective teaching and engaged learning counts toward the future.

Data released by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) last week confirmed we reached the President’s goal ahead of schedule: 54% of K-8 schools are physically open and offering full time in-person learning to all their students as of March, and 88% are offering full-time and/or hybrid learning. Over the past three months, we’ve seen schools and districts act swiftly and courageously to reopen their buildings while keeping students and staff safe. We’ve seen educators, families, and community leaders problem solve together to meet not just the academic, but also the social, emotional, and mental health needs of our students as they return to classrooms.

While we’ve made significant progress, anything less than 100% of students being offered the option to return to in-person learning full-time is not enough. We must continue to lead with the same urgency as the President to put every resource to bear to reopen more schools this spring. Waiting until the fall is too late. Because when it comes to helping students succeed, we don’t have a moment to spare.

Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona (published in CNN)

Today, many states are racing toward reopening, allowing even unvaccinated adults and children to congregate in places like churches, schools and stadiums, all while they record thousands of new infections each day.

There’s just one problem: The calculus has changed. Experience shows the B117 variant, now the dominant strain in the United States, is more contagious than the original strain, and those who are infected by that variant are more likely to suffer from severe disease. This is not just true for adults, but children too. Classes, sports and other activities where children congregate are becoming superspreader events. What’s worse is children 11 and under aren’t currently eligible for any of the vaccines, so they represent the best opportunities for the virus to continue spreading and mutating.

Also, new data shows children may suffer from long-term consequences of B117 infections. Even mild and asymptomatic children suffer. Months later, many are still significantly affected, even when it comes to normal activities. Experience with SARS suggests this may result in long-term disability.

The best tool at our disposal to prevent the new virus from spreading further among children is to reduce their chances of exposure. If children are going to learn in person, then we need schools to be safe. That means ensuring they have all the necessary equipment and PPE they need. The CDC says good ventilation can help maintain a healthy environment in schools, either by opening windows, using portable air cleaners or improving building-wide filtration. Clean air is a more powerful disinfectant than generic bleach surface disinfection. Schools need to stop wasting money on ionizers, and instead invest in High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and safe UV disinfection. Unfortunately, many schools still have inadequate ventilation and uneven mask enforcement, and that needs to change.

Keeping kids safe also keeps adults safe, since household data shows kids can bring the virus home and infect others…

We must resist the willingness to accept risks that under different circumstances would seem unthinkable, because now our children are being threatened.

DR. KAVITA PATEL and DR. ERIC FEIGL-DING; Patel is a primary care physician in Washington, D.C and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. Feigl-Ding is an epidemiologist and health economist and an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington D.C., and chief health economist for Microclinic International.(published in NY Daily News)

Sprinkles from the Right

A vast majority of parents who identified as Republican said they support in-person schooling for elementary and secondary students (94%; Gallup, published in March 2021)

President Biden has made a point of promising to reopen schools, and well he should. The lost year of learning will hold back a generation of American children. But the schools still aren’t completely open, as the emerging evidence shows…

The data company Burbio tracks reopenings for some 1,200 American school districts, and it reports that on Election Day 2020 36.8% of students participated exclusively in virtual instruction. Some districts shut down as Covid-19 cases increased during the winter. But more than 57% of students had the option of in-person learning at least one day per week by Mr. Biden’s inauguration. Only 3.3% of American students attended schools with exclusively virtual offerings.

The problem is that, more than 100 days later, most students still haven’t returned to anything resembling a normal school schedule. Nearly 30% of all students are still doing a mix of in-person and virtual instruction, with all the learning limitations that we now know go with such a schedule…

These columns have documented how teachers unions have used their political clout, especially in Democratic states, to resist returning to full-time instruction. Mr. Biden could help students, working parents and the country if he’d speak truth to that union power. As a Democrat he’s especially well positioned to do it. Instead he is defining reopening, and thus education, down. It’s a tragedy, and America will suffer the consequences for decades.

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

In February, [CDC director] Dr. Walensky told the press that there were “increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated.” Press Secretary Jen Psaki immediately backtracked, telling reporters that Walensky was speaking in her “personal” capacity and that there was no “official guidance from the CDC yet on the vaccination of teachers and what would be needed to ensure the safe reopening of schools.” This despite extensive evidence, even from CDC studies, that it was safe for schools to fully reopen. The CDC ignored that evidence in releasing its guidelines in March, insisting that schools should generally be closed or partly virtual when community spread is high and the school doesn’t have routine testing — a standard that would be failed in 90 percent of the country at the time, under the agency’s definition of high spread. A group of doctors who conducted a study of school districts in Wood County, Wis., even publicly accused the CDC of misrepresenting their research. The administration also intervened to block the CDC from revising its guidelines on travel to allow for travel by people who have been fully vaccinated.

Now, a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust, reported by the New York Post, reveals the depth of political interference in the school-reopening guidance. The powerful American Federation of Teachers, which spent nearly $20 million to elect Democrats in 2020, was deeply involved in crafting the CDC guidance. One AFT email to officials in the Biden White House said: “We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document.” This and other AFT emails to the White House were then forwarded to Walensky by the White House, lest she miss the point of who was calling the shots. The AFT also leaned on Walensky directly, and AFT president Randi Weingarten lobbied her by phone. As a result, the Post noted at least two instances of AFT-drafted language being inserted verbatim into the CDC guidelines, in each case to limit in-person instruction.

Many Americans have had their eyes opened during the past year to the lengths to which the teachers’ unions will go in placing the interests of their members ahead of the interests of children. Now, they can see the Biden administration bending the CDC itself to the union’s will. Whatever this is, it is not science.

Editorial Board, National Review