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Biden: Science, not politics, should decide school reopening

Trump has also threatened to hold back federal funding if schools don’t bring their students back in the northern fall and the CDC is working on new guidance for how to do so.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has advanced much the same argument as Biden, saying the decision to reopen schools should be driven by science — but arguing that doing so means bringing students back to classrooms.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a virtual event seen on a laptop in Arlington, Virginia.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a virtual event seen on a laptop in Arlington, Virginia.Credit:Bloomberg

When the president “says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this,” she said on Thursday, while adding, “The science is on our side here, and we encourage for localities and states to just simply follow the science, open our schools.”

Biden countered that any plans for the new school year have to start by reducing the number of coronavirus cases in communities around the country: “That’s step one.”

“Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick,” Biden said in a video he recorded with his wife, Jill, a former teacher. “Forcing educators and students back into a classroom in areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous.”

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Although state and local officials would have the final say, Biden plans to enlist federal agencies including the CDC to establish “basic, objective criteria” for reopening schools. Those include districts securing necessary funding to reconfigure classrooms to better allow for social distancing, reducing class sizes, procuring protective equipment and devising plans to accommodate at-risk teachers and students.

Biden promised, if elected, to send to Congress an emergency funding package to help schools prepare for reopening, which could cost as much as $US30 billion.

The former vice-president also suggested schools shouldn’t be forced to reopen until the creation of federal guidelines “free from political influence”. He said they should detail how low a community’s infection rate needs to be before resuming in-person instruction, when schools might close again if virus infection cases rise, what safe maximum class sizes are and who should return to the classroom first if not everyone can be accommodated.

The Trump administration’s “chaotic and politicised response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own,” Biden’s campaign wrote in its five-page “roadmap” to reopening. “Schools need clear, consistent, effective national guidelines, not mixed messages and political ultimatums.”

AP

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