White House

Biden issues executive order on reopening schools safely

Jan. 22, 2021
The president directed the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to collect national data on school closures and provide guidance on reopening.

President Joe Biden has used his executive powers to direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to collect national data on school closures and provide guidance on reopening.

CNBC reports that the executive order, “Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers,” also encourages the Federal Communications Commission to improve internet connectivity “for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.”

The president’s plan to reopen schools includes ramping up testing, accelerating the pace of vaccinations and providing more funding for educational institutions.

In addition, a newly formed Covid response team “will work to ensure that testing materials, support for contact tracing, and vaccinations for teachers are equitably provided to support in-person care and learning,” according to the administration. 

Under Biden’s plan, schools could tap disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Covid-related expenses, such as personal protective equipment, sanitation, improved ventilation, reconfigured classrooms and upgraded technology.

The president also called on Congress to provide at least $130 billion in dedicated funding to schools and $350 billion in state and local relief funds to help school districts close budget gaps and provide additional resources for reopening.

Another $35 billion in emergency funds would go toward keeping colleges open.

Getting educators vaccinated is also key. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prioritized teachers and school staff as “essential workers,” making them next in line to get the vaccine.

Biden says he will seek to accelerate the rollout of Covid vaccines by providing more funding to local and state officials, creating more vaccination sites and launching a national public education campaign.

New research indicates that distance learning has caused a significant setback in educational achievement, particularly among Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities.

Distance learning has also put pressure on parents trying to balance work, child care and remote school.

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