President Joe Biden has made it clear that one of his top priorities is figuring out a plan for returning students back to school. He plans to do this by ramping up COVID testing, accelerating the pace in which we are vaccinating the public, providing more funding for educational institutions. and wearing a mask.
President Biden has also expressed that a unified approach to COVID precautions will help keep students and teachers safe. On his first day in office, he has encouraged Americans to take on the “100 day mask challenge” to slow the spread.
Biden has allotted $130 billion in his COVID relief plan, known as the American Rescue Plan, to public funding for K-12 schools which will be used to help school districts cover costs from reducing class size, improving ventilation, and hiring increased numbers of sanitation staff. Money would also go towards providing personal protective equipment to teachers and expanding the number of COVID-19 tests available in schools.
On Jan. 21 the White House released an official statement about the steps his administration will take to get students back to in-person learning. “We need the capacity, the capacity to know that, in fact, the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone,” the statement said.
California educators are in the 1B tier and will be next in line to get the vaccine after healthcare workers and long-term care residents as they are “essential workers”. This will be a key part of the return to in-person school.
The president added during a speech on Jan. 21 that “we should make school classrooms safe and secure,” also adding in that schools will need new ventilation systems.
President Biden is committed to creating a safe environment for students, teachers, janitors and all other staff on campus. While precautions like masking and other protective equipment can prevent the spread of COVID-19, some students worry about how those not following the rules could endanger their health in an in-person learning model.
“Rules can be laid down but that doesn’t mean everyone will follow them, there’s always going to be kids who wear their mask below their nose,” said junior Tommy Johnson, reflecting on the risks of returning to school, even with restrictions. “I would feel safer if people actually wore their masks properly.”
The administration faces even more challenges, such as limited amounts of the vaccine and tests. Biden aims to increase the funding at the local and state level, creating more pop up vaccination spots, and launch a national public education campaign.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report explaining the relatively low risk of transmission in schools when appropriate precautions are in place.
“When schools implement strategies like mask requirements and student cohorts, there is potential for them to open safely when those certain mitigation steps are in place,” the statement said.