Education

A PLAN TO SAFELY REOPEN AMERICA’S SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES – American Federation of Teachers

People across the United States are eager to return to some semblance of “normal.”
To do so, we must meet a herculean challenge: remaking our society and the places
in our lives we hold dear—public schools and colleges, places of worship, workplaces,
restaurants and more—in ways that hold paramount our ultimate priorities: the safety
and well-being of our children, families and communities; the safety of our members
and every frontline worker; and the health of our economy and economic well-being of
working families.
Physical distancing efforts have slowed the rate of COVID-19 infections, but no expert
believes we will eradicate this virus without a vaccine. Reopening prematurely by
relaxing stay-in-place restrictions and resuming large public gatherings runs the risk of
undoing the work of the last two months. A premature return to full commercial activity
risks a second surge of infections and second lockdown as is happening in Singapore
right now. Even once public health officials deem it safe to reopen, doing so without the
necessary precautions could be deadly.
This document provides a roadmap for navigating the next steps. It provides specific
guidance for transitioning from lockdowns to other public health tools to limit the
transmission of COVID-19. It focuses on reopening school buildings in particular, because
the safe reopening of public school buildings means students can go to school, and
parents, who work outside the home, can go to work. That is key to the reopening of the
broader economy.1
We expect the plan to evolve and adapt over time. It rests on five pillars that draw on
the best available science and public health guidance, and the expertise of educators and
health practitioners. Gradually, responsibly and safely reopening society requires:

  1. Maintaining physical distancing until the number of new cases declines for at least 14 consecutive days. Reducing the number of new cases is a prerequisite for transitioning to reopening plans on a community-by-community basis.
  2. Putting in place the infrastructure and resources to test, trace and isolate new cases. Transitioning from community-focused physical distancing and stay-in-place orders to case-specific interventions requires ramping up the capacity to test, trace and isolate each and every new case.
  3. Deploying the public health tools that prevent the virus’ spread and aligning them with education strategies that meet the needs of students.
  4. Involving workers, unions, parents and communities in all planning. Each workplace and community faces unique challenges related to COVID-19. To ensure that reopening plans address those challenges, broad worker and community involvement is necessary. They must be engaged, educated and empowered.
  5. Investing in recovery: Do not abandon America’s communities or forfeit America’s future. These interventions will require more—not less—investments in public health and in our schools, universities, hospitals, and local and state governments. Strengthening communities should be a priority in the recovery.

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