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Teachers union president: ‘No perfect solution’ to reopening schools

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The president of the American Federation of Teachers, the U.S.’s second-largest teachers’ union, said Sunday that there is “no perfect solution” for opening schools safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic while pointing to successes that some municipalities have had with efforts to reopen.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Randi Weingarten told host Chuck Todd that New York City officials had led the way in providing access to vaccines for teachers and imposing safety precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“There’s no perfect solution, but frankly I think New York City has done a pretty good job in terms of showing the way,” she said. “Big school district, lots of issues in terms of old buildings, and we learned a lot from what New York City did in September and October.”

Weingarten added that it was up to states to provide reasonable safety precautions necessary for teachers and students to return for in-person learning in a safe manner.

“There’s a roadmap now, and so, you actually can follow that roadmap in terms of defining those risks. And, I think between the CDC guidance as well as the resources President Biden is trying to get in the $1.9 trillion package, we have the highway or the roadmap that allows us [to reopen schools safely,]” she said.

“It comes down to three things…the layered mitigation strategies, the testing, so you can actually see asymptomatic spread, and vaccine prioritization,” Weingarten said. “Not that every single teacher needs to be vaccinated before you open any schools, but you should align the vaccine prioritization with the reopening of schools.”

State leaders and other officials have called for schools to resume in-person learning as soon as possible, citing a lower risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools that follow social distancing guidelines.

CDC officials said last month that “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” noting that the rate of spread in schools is usually lower than the surrounding community.

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