Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday released a “roadmap” for reopening schools safely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, including working to curb the spread of the virus and calling on Congress to pass roughly $34 billion in emergency funding to ensure schools have the necessary resources to reopen safely.
Biden’s blueprint comes as schools across the nation are grappling with their reopening plans amid the pandemic and as President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed for schools to reopen even as Covid-19 cases in some areas of the country are spiking.
With the start of the school year weeks away in some parts of the US, Biden’s plan says, “We had a window to get this right. And, Trump blew it.”
“Everyone wants their schools to be reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick,” Biden said in a video accompanying the plan. “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.”
Biden’s wife, Jill, a community college professor, also appears in the video, saying, “Schools and parents alike want a clear science-based strategy. Not mixed messages and ultimatums.”
Biden’s five-point plan says state and local officials’ decisions to open schools should be “based on science,” circumstances within the community and “with the safety of students and educators in mind.” He said the first step is working to curb the spread of the virus.
“It has to start by getting cases down in our communities. That’s step one. It means wearing a mask, following social-distance guidelines, ensuring effective testing and tracing and that workers have the protective equipment they need to be safe,” Biden said. “Donald Trump may have waved the white flag and given up, but the rest of us can’t do that.”
Biden suggests Congress pass an additional $30 billion in funding to “ensure schools have the additional resources they need to adapt effectively to Covid-19,” including personal protective equipment and “alterations to building ventilation systems, classrooms, schedules, class size, and transportation.” He also wants an additional $4 billion for technology and broadband upgrades.
The former vice president said he would ask the Centers for Disease Control and Pevention, along with other federal agencies, to provide state and local officials with guidelines on reopening safely.
Biden’s proposal comes as school districts across the country are weighing how they will resume teaching. Several of the country’s largest districts have said they will extend remote learning into the fall.