The CDC Just Took This Important Step To Reopen Schools

In case you hadn't noticed then again parents with young children most certainly would have it has been 12 months since brick-and-mortar schools across the country were closed and went online because of the coronavirus outbreak (via Education Week). And while President Joe Biden has made vaccinating school and child-care workers a priority, there are a set of recommendations which stand out, and which the CDC just made, which can go a long way in keeping schools safe. 

Aside from mask-wearing and social distancing, the CDC is now calling on school and child-care workers to make it a priority to ensure fresh air flows into classrooms by allowing for more ventilation. This can be done by opening doors and windows, weather permitting, and by using fans to allow air to continue circulating. The guidance, which was adopted at the end of February, also encourages teachers to hold activities outdoors, when weather or other circumstances permit. The same recommendation of keeping fresh air flowing applies to school buses, where windows can and should remain open if it isn't a safety concern.

Good ventilation will be critical to safely bringing children back into classrooms

Public health experts like Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding of the Federation of American Scientists considers the recommendations a step in the right direction, because back in February, the CDC had not considered ventilation as a priority for the reopening of schools, even though several studies show that the COVID-19 virus spreads more quickly indoors because of a lack of ventilation (via Twitter).

Using devices such as HVAC upgrades, air cleaners, CO2 monitors, and the use of premium masks are considered critical to not just getting schools to reopen safely, but keeping them safe, too. $170 billion worth of funding was included in the COVID-19 rescue package to help schools reopen safely, and the money is meant to cover everything from modernizing HVAC systems to buying equipment and cleaning supplies that will keep classrooms safe. The money is also meant to help deal with the learning loss which students experienced from having missed a year of school (via National Education Association).

Reopening schools is still a contentious issue

Even though the Biden administration has made reopening schools a priority, it is still considered to be a contentious issue, because schools need to stay on top of the latest research involving how the virus behaves so it can keep both staff and students protected. Then there is a matter of turning public policy into action, because everything scientists have been able to articulate so far needs to be practiced at schools. "There's a difference between public health mitigation policies when we think them through and when we write them down, and then when we try to implement them," Washington DC-based epidemic expert Theresa Chapple told MIT Technology Review. "We see that there are barriers at play."

To prevent clusters from taking root and hurting the wider community, Chapple says it is important for schools not just to have reopening plans but closing plans, too, because everyone needs to be on the same page if they have to acknowledge that whatever it is they might be doing is not working. While coronavirus infection rates are on a downward slide in the U.S., over 50,000 cases are still being reported daily (via The New York Times) and that's a number that the country's pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's not happy with, even if the rest of us are a bit more relaxed about it, at least for now.