White House Coronavirus Task Force pressures schools to reopen with limited federal guidance

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — As coronavirus cases topped three million in the U.S. Wednesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged states to fill their classrooms again.

“It’s not a matter of if schools should reopen,” DeVos said. “It’s simply a matter of how… how that happens is best left to education and community leaders.”

The White House Coronavirus Task Force discussed at the U.S. Department of Education its plans to help these entities go back to school, most in just a matter of weeks.

CDC Director Robert Redfield will release more guidelines next week for how to safely reopen K-12 schools, including systems to track symptoms.

“To help them facilitate their development of their own unique plan to accomplish that,” Redfield said.

President Trump tweeted Wednesday morning he disagrees with the CDC “on their very tough and expensive guidelines for opening schools.” The president didn’t elaborate, but during an afternoon briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave one example: guidance urging kids to bring their own lunch. McEnany said it isn’t feasible since so many students rely on school for food.

Redfield stressed the guidelines are not requirements.

“It is not the intent of CDC’s guidelines to be used as a rationale to keep schools closed,” he said.  

In a one-on-one interview with Washington Correspondent Jessi Turnure Tuesday, the president told her, “We have a long time to think about the school stuff.”

President Trump said he is considering more than just the impact on students.

“The parents don’t know what to do,” he told Turnure. “They have a job, and now they’re all starting to go back to work so we want to see the schools open.”

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said reopening schools is especially important for lower-wage workers and single parents.

“The pace and structure of our national life is built around the expectation that our young people will be in school in person,” Scalia said.  

Vice President Mike Pence said Congress should create incentives for districts to reopen, but President Trump has also threatened to withhold federal education funds from schools that remain closed.

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