Anya Kamenetz

The AAP argues that offering elementary school children the opportunity to go to school every day should be given due consideration over spacing guidelines if capacity is an issue: “Schools should weigh the benefits of strict adherence to a 6-feet spacing rule between students with the potential downside if remote learning is the only alternative.”

And, it also argues that masks are probably not practical for children younger than middle school unless they can wear a mask without increased face touching.

The guidelines do note that adult school staff are more at risk compared to young children and need to be able to distance from other adults as much as possible — no in-person faculty meetings, no class visits by parents. And they emphasize the need to make accommodations for students who are medically fragile or have special health care needs or disabilities.

However, these guidelines don’t necessarily address the health concerns of America’s teachers or their willingness to return to in-person teaching. Federal data show nearly a third of teachers are over 50, putting them in a higher risk category when it comes to the disease.

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, for example, recently announced its reopening plans, offering families a choice between two days a week of in-person classes or an all-remote schedule plus extra intervention on a third day for students who need it. The county’s three educator unions resisted, arguing in a statement that remote learning should continue. “Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools,” said Tina Williams, president of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. “They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families.”

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