Biden: ‘Every school should be open’ in the fall
President Biden on Thursday called for all schools to open this fall for in-person learning even as coronavirus cases rise around the country, arguing there are enough tools available to ensure children and teachers are safe.
“We can and we must open schools this fall, full time,” Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House on combating the pandemic. “It’s better for our children’s mental and emotional well being, and we can’t afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open, and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do so safely.”
Biden pointed to funding through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan from March that allowed schools to implement improved ventilation systems, and he noted teachers were prioritized through the Department of Education when COVID-19 shots first became widely available in the spring.
Nearly 90 percent of educators and school staff are vaccinated, Biden said. Roughly 10 million Americans between the ages of 12 and 18 have gotten the shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The CDC on Tuesday updated its masking guidance for schools, encouraging everyone over the age of 2 to wear face coverings when indoors, including those who are fully vaccinated. Some state leaders, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), have already vowed they will not allow any mask requirements for children.
The rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus has led to a spike in cases across the country, prompting some local leaders to worry whether it will affect the planned resumption of in-person learning. Many schools are slated to start the new academic year in August.
Millions of children have spent the past 18 months learning remotely, which experts have warned could have negative effects on their social, mental and emotional well being.