Meeting the President’s Call to Support the Safe and Sustained Reopening of Schools


Meeting the president's call to support the safe and sustained reopening of schools

By the end of this 7 days, much more than 62 percent of pupils across the state will complete their initially working day of university. 

As a trainer, a principal, and a mother or father, I often loved those initially few days – pupils viewing each and every other for the initially time after summer crack, getting to know their teachers, reading a book or participating in a club or a sport that sparked a new enthusiasm. 

But this calendar year, the joy that pupils and educators are feeling as they return to in-particular person learning is mixed with uncertainty and a feeling of urgency as a outcome of the pandemic. As educators, we know in our hearts how important in-particular person learning is for student success—even just before the data emerged on the devastating impression of school building closures during the past 18 months.   

That is why our precedence ought to be to support assure that every student can properly return to university in particular person. Amidst the uncertainty triggered by the pandemic and the Delta variant, the fact is that we know what works to keep pupils and educators secure: following the science-primarily based techniques for preventing the unfold of COVID-19 recommended by the Centers for Ailment Regulate and Avoidance (CDC). 

I’ve observed good examples of states and university districts that are foremost the way. Previously this 7 days, I joined Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for an announcement that the condition will get the job done to bring school-primarily based vaccination clinics to every university district and provide free screening testing for all universities. And I lately spoke with Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who is earning a renewed push to encourage masking in Arkansas schools and offering incentives to eligible students to get vaccinated. 

I am also deeply troubled when I see the opposite: officers that are placing politics ahead of pupils and blocking their university districts from adopting science-primarily based strategies designed to safeguard pupils, aligned with CDC direction. 

These states are needlessly placing pupils, family members, and educators at chance. Yet in each and every of these states, there are also educators and others who are taking ways to safeguard the well being and basic safety of their university communities. 

On behalf of the U.S. Division of Education and learning, we stand with our educators and leaders who are functioning to properly reopen universities and keep secure in-particular person instruction. 

As President Biden created very clear in the Presidential Memorandum that he issued today: “Our precedence ought to be the basic safety of pupils, family members, educators, and staff members in our university communities. Nothing should really interfere with this intention.” 

Here’s what we’re doing at ED to deliver on the President’s determination: 

Standing Up for Students’ Legal rights 

I want to emphasize this Department’s determination to preserving the rights of every student in the nation. The Department has the authority to look into any condition educational agency whose insurance policies or steps may perhaps infringe on the rights of every student to access public instruction equally.   

For instance, the Division may perhaps initiate a directed investigation if specifics point out a likely violation of the rights of pupils as a outcome of condition insurance policies and steps. The Division will also obtain and reply as suitable to issues from the public, which include mom and dad, guardians, and others about pupils who may perhaps experience discrimination as a outcome of states not permitting neighborhood university districts to lower virus transmission chance by masking specifications and other mitigation actions. As often, the Department’s Place of work for Civil Legal rights evaluates allegations of discrimination on a situation-by-situation foundation, on the lookout at the particular specifics of each and every situation. 

In addition, the Department’s Place of work of Unique Education Programs monitors states’ implementation of the federal unique instruction legislation that requires that students with disabilities obtain a free, suitable public instruction. 

Supporting College Districts to Protect Students and Educators 

Next the letters I despatched previous 7 days to Florida and Texas, today the Department issued communications to six additional states that have also prohibited universal mask mandates – Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP Act) requires each school district that gets Elementary and Secondary College Unexpected emergency Reduction (ESSER) cash to adopt a strategy for the safe return to in-particular person instruction and continuity of products and services. As I wrote in the letters, actions to block university districts from voluntarily adopting science-primarily based techniques for preventing the unfold of COVID-19 that are aligned with the direction from the CDC may perhaps infringe upon a university district’s authority to adopt insurance policies to safeguard pupils and educators as they build their secure return to in-particular person instruction options required by Federal legislation.  

In addition, the ARP Act explicitly gives school districts the authority to use ESSER cash for “developing techniques and employing public well being protocols which include, to the greatest extent practicable, insurance policies in line with direction from the Centers for Ailment Regulate and Avoidance for the reopening and operation of university amenities to correctly keep the well being and basic safety of pupils, educators, and other staff members.” It also specifies that ESSER cash can be utilised to assist “activities that are essential to keep the operation of and continuity of products and services in neighborhood educational companies and continuing to utilize existing staff members of the neighborhood educational agency.” We will take any essential action to ensure that nothing interferes with a university district’s discretion to make these vital investments, which include condition insurance policies from a Governor, condition legislature, condition instruction agency, or other officers. This also contains shelling out the comprehensive salaries of educators (which include superintendents) and university board members if their state moves to withhold their salary or levy economic penalties on their universities. 

Let me be clear—this Division will go on to use every instrument in our toolbox to protect the well being and basic safety of pupils and educators and to optimize in-particular person learning as the new university calendar year commences. 

You have my phrase: We will follow the science. We will do what is greatest for pupils. And together we will fulfill the extraordinary potential of our public education program in this most challenging of decades. Our pupils are entitled to it! 

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