Devos says CDC guidelines on schools reopening ‘meant to be flexible’

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Sunday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are “flexible” and should be applied as appropriate by school districts, as she continued to push the Trump administration stance for students to return to classrooms in the fall despite rising coronavirus cases across parts of the U.S.  

“The rule should be kids go back to school this fall,” DeVos said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that cases in which there are “little flare ups” should be dealt with on a case by case basis. 

CNN’s Dana Bash pressed DeVos on her stance, asking her if schools should follow the CDC recommendations and if the federal government is on the same page, noting President Trump called them “very tough & expensive.” 

“[We’re] very much on the same page,” DeVos said. 

Pressed again on whether schools should follow the guidelines, Devos said the CDC guidelines are “meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation.”

CDC guidelines regarding schools reopening include recommendations to keep desks 6 feet apart when feasible, shut down communal spaces such as playgrounds and dining spaces, and add physical barriers in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart. 

DeVos on Sunday was also questioned about comments by the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, one of the largest school districts in the country, who told CNN it is not feasible to reopen following the CDC guidelines. 

Superintendent Scott Brabrand said his district would need space equivalent to about five Pentagons to accommodate the student population following the CDC guidelines. The district instead plans to give parents an option on whether to send kids to schools.

Bash asked DeVos what her recommendation is, “given that reality.”

“My recommendation is he take up the office to meet with my team and some of the folks with the CDC and task force to talk about ways they can look at this freshly and differently on behalf of students,” she responded, without detailing ways Fairfax or other large districts may be able to safely accommodate students in the fall. 

Bash also asked DeVos if the Department of Education has plans regarding when schools should close if an outbreak occurs. 

“Schools should do what’s right on the ground at that time for their students and for their situation there is no one uniform approach that we can take or should take nationwide,” DeVos said. 

Asked if schools should revert to remote learning if there are flare ups, DeVos said schools should have “plans.” 

“If there’s a short term flare up for a few days, that’s a different situation than planning for an entire school year in anticipation for something that hasn’t happened,” she added.

Tags Betsy DeVos Coronavirus Dana Bash Donald Trump schools

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