Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden Friday accused President Trump of failing to offer any construction guidelines to schools to enable them to open safely in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been pushing for schools to fully open in the fall, with Trump threatening to pull federal funding from districts that do not offer in-person classes. They also have criticized Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as too tough and expensive for districts to follow.
Schools were abruptly shut down in spring as the coronavirus pandemic began spreading throughout the United States, forcing districts to jump to e-learning platforms without the means to upgrade equipment for students or teachers.
“If Trump had actually done his job as president, the decisions facing our schools would look fundamentally different,” Biden said in a press release.
The criticism came as Chicago issued a blueprint for the fall term that incorporates a hybrid model that puts children in kindergarten through 10th grade in classrooms two days a week and at home the rest of the time. Juniors and seniors would work mostly from home, except for those who need additional help or vocational instruction. The Chicago Teachers Union is against returning to classrooms.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom reversed his position leaving the decision on whether to open schools to individual districts and laid out strict criteria that are expected to keep most districts from opening their doors. Schools in areas where cases are rising are prohibited from opening while those in other areas must make sure students in grade 3 and higher wear masks.
Biden said schools cannot open fully until the virus is brought under control something that has yet to happen with cases surging, especially in the West and South in areas that initially were spared. Biden also called for national guidelines that allow districts to make their own decisions based on local conditions and to provide emergency funding to reconfigure classrooms, improve ventilation and make other improvements.
Schools and childcare providers need emergency funding, Biden said, and also need federal guidance on developing online programs.
Biden noted moving to online learning in the spring exacerbated racial inequities and warned some students are at risk of losing an entire year of academic gains.