Joe Biden's school reopening plan draws ire, conservatives say it will scrap sports for almost 83% counties
According to the phased plan for opening the schools, in-person instruction should be given priority over extracurricular activities, including sports
President Joe Biden on Friday, February 12, released guidelines for safe reopening of schools amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In a statement, the Democrat said one of his goals as the US president is to reopen America’s schools “as quickly and as safely as possible”. He also said his administration has made progress as more schools have been opened to students during the pandemic than what it was during the times of Donald Trump.
As per guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appropriate distancing has to be maintained in classrooms and school buses while masks have to be worn consistently and handwashing has to be done on a regular basis. However, as per the document named ‘Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation’, one of the strategies include prioritization of in-person instruction over extracurricular activities, including sports and school events, to minimize the danger of transmission and conservatives slammed the president alleging that his plan will exclude about 83 percent of the counties shut for sports and extracurricular activities. In terms of numbers, 2,599 out of 3,138 counties will be affected.
Conservative online magazine The Federalist slammed the plan on reopening schools, saying: “The plan divides counties into statuses: blue for “low,” yellow for “moderate,” orange for “substantial,” and red for “high.” In the high red transmission category, “sports and extracurricular activities are virtual only”.”
The report added: “According to the most recent CDC guidance, which Biden is relying on for threshold definitions, 391 counties are in the orange phase (12.5 percent), 148 are in yellow (4.7 percent), and only one is in blue phase. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky urged schools to return to in-person learning as soon as possible in the new report, noting that “in-person learning in schools has not been associated with substantial community transmission”.
It then cited a statement issued by National Education Association President Becky Pringle to say: “Schools should be the safest place in any community. Now that we have clearer CDC guidance, state and local decision-makers need to be able to look educators, students, and parents in the eyes and ensure that with full confidence.”
Biden administration accused of flip-flopping on school reopening
The Biden White House has been accused of flip-flopping on the reopening of schools. Recently, Press Secretary Jen Psaki qualified Biden’s pledge made last December to reopen the schools within the first 100 days of his presidency, saying that the latter wants in-person learning. On Tuesday, February 9, she said in a press conference that Biden wants to see the instructors reaching a point where they are “teaching at least one day a week”. Soon after, Psaki said the Biden administration will not rest until every school is opened five days a week.
School unions have challenged the plan to reopen schools for in-person learning. Recently, staff members of the Philadelphia school district organized a protest against the city’s reopening plan. In Phoenix, one union even forced the cancelation of basketball and soccer, irking students as well as their guardians. Earlier this month, Psaki clarified that though Biden wanted to see children returning to the classrooms, he would not commit to standing up to the unions if faced with a choice between prominent Democratic donors and reopening of the schools. The administration was accused of bowing before the teachers’ unions’ pressure.
Coaches were also not happy with the restrictions imposed on sporting activities. The Federalist report quoted Jeremy Soria, coach of a university basketball team, which was reportedly contesting for a state championship, saying: “They basically canceled the season without saying the season is canceled.”