Lily Eskelsen Garcia/Twitter
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NEA president says health of students and teachers should be priority in reopening schools

April 30, 2020
Lily Eskelsen Garcia says returning children to school buildings without proper testing, tracing, and social isolation is dangerous.

The president of the National Education Association says the well-being of students and educators should be the primary focus as communities begin considering plans to reopen schools that have been closed by the coronavirus.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, in a thread posted on Twitter, says the NEA, the nation’s largest teachers union, is “listening to the health experts and educators on how and when to reopen schools — not the whims of Donald Trump, who boasts about trusting his gut to guide him.”

“Bringing thousands of children together in school buildings without proper testing, tracing, and social isolation is dangerous and could cost lives,” Garcia says.

Garcia is critical of the White House task force focused on reopening the economy because it does not include any educators.

“This means that 51 million public school students do not have an advocate in the White House for what they need to be safe as school buildings reopen,” Garcia says. “…The health and safety of our students, families, and educators must be the primary driver of when it is safe to reopen school buildings in each community.”

Garcia also cautions that when in-person classes are allowed to resume, students and staff may find it challenging to adjust.

“When the buildings reopen, we will all need the time and space to reconnect, to grieve, to heal, and to refocus,” Garcia say.

“Students will need specialized staff like school nurses, school social workers, and school psychologists who will have a crucial role to play, addressing mental and behavior health issues as well as broader issues of ensuring that reopened schools remain safe and healthy.”

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