Schools Should Stay Open Despite Omicron Surge, Biden Says
President Joe Biden declared on Tuesday that schools should remain open despite the current nationwide surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.
He noted that his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan included billions of dollars for the support of schools during the pandemic.
“We do not have any reason to believe that Omicron is more harmful for children than other varieties,” Biden stated in an information session with the White House COVID-19 Response team.
“We know that our children are safe in school, in fact,” he continued. “That’s why I believe that schools must be open. They have everything they require.
Biden stated that $130 billion of funds allocated to coronavirus relief went to schools’ ventilation and social distancing between classrooms. An additional $10 billion was reserved for COVID-19 testing in schools.
“That money went to the states however, the school districts and states have spent it well — many of them. But unfortunately they haven’t all,” he said. “So I would like to encourage states and school districts, to make use of the money they have to protect your children and keep schools open.
According to The Hill, while the White House continues to urge schools to remain open during the pandemic outbreak, some schools have chosen to transition to remote learning as the number of COVID-19 cases increase across the country. This includes districts in Atlanta and Cleveland, Detroit, Detroit, Milwaukee, and others.
Chicago Public Schools cancelled classes Wednesday following a dispute between teachers’ union members. criticized the district’s response on the Omicron variant. They claimed that the classroom conditions were unsafe according to The New York Times.
However, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said remote learning was unacceptable and ineffective, and decided to cancel classes altogether rather than return to online instruction. She urged teachers to attend school, and suggested that city officials were considering a stoppage of illegal hours of work.
She told me on Tuesday night, “Nobody signs up to be a homeschooler at the last minute.” “We must not forget how disruptive this remote process can be to individual parents working and who can’t afford to stay home.
The newspaper said that Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor, has rejected this week’s bids from the largest teacher union in the city to switch temporarily to virtual learning.
Governors from Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have called for schools to remain open despite staffing challenges, according to Politico. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law this summer that mandates distance learning through independent study. This is something that classrooms cannot provide.
Simi Valley Unified Schools District, which is located just north of Los Angeles said that more than 50 employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to the school day on Wednesday. A neighboring district had 75 people out. Politico said that neighboring districts have an inventory of substitute teachers. They expressed concern about finding enough teachers to cover their classrooms.
Jason Peplinski (superintendent of Simi Valley Unified) stated that he had been talking to colleagues about the same issues. “Anywhere from 10 to 15 percent to 30 percent of our employees are being tested currently, having COVID that is self-identified or tested,” he said to the news outlet.
The district currently plans to merge classes in larger spaces, like gyms or school libraries.
Peplinski stated, “It’s going be a very difficult time, to be sure.”
White House: “Briefing Room Remarks from President Biden in the midst of COVID-19’s meeting,” Jan. 4 2021.
The Hill: “Biden should keep schools open despite the omicron wave.”
The New York Times The New York Times “Public schools in Chicago shut down because the teachers’ union claims that classroom conditions are unsafe.”
Politico: “Governors want schools to remain open, but districts might not have enough teachers.”