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betsy deVos

DeVos defends push to reopen schools while coronavirus cases surge

July 13, 2020
The education secretary wants districts to offer in-person classes when school resumes later this summer.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is defending the Trump administration's aggressive push to reopen schools amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, asserting that a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning is "not a valid choice for families."

NBC News reports that DeVos also refused to say whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for schools should be followed uniformly.

"The CDC guidelines are just that, meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation," she said on CNN's "State of the Union."

The guidelines say children meeting in groups "can put everyone at risk," and that children "can pass this virus onto others who have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19." The guidelines also call for 6 feet of social distancing and other measures to decrease the risk of spreading the virus.

President Donald Trump and his administration have pressed for schools to fully reopen. He has also threatened to withhold money from districts that don't reopen in the fall.

"School leaders across the country need to be making plans" to have students in the classroom, DeVos said. "There will be exceptions to the rule, but the rule should be kids go back to school this fall. And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with school by school or a case-by-case basis. There's ample opportunity to have kids in school."

In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools are "going to obviously do our very best in our community considering where the health data currently is," Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He said that if people follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks, among other measures, "conditions may be appropriate and healthy for students to return to the very best model of teaching and learning, which is in person."

"But we need the community's collaboration. We need the science to drive the practice rather than politics influencing what is legitimately a community concern," he said.

Scott Brabrand, superintendent of the  Fairfax County (Va.) district, said on "State of the Union" that the CDC's guidelines "simply mean that you can't put every kid back in a school with the existing square footage footprint. It's just that simple."

"We're the size of five Pentagons," he said. "You would need another five Pentagons of space to be able to safely accommodate all of the students in Fairfax County Public Schools."

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