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Ron Klain sides with teachers unions on school reopening despite CDC studies

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

White House chief of staff Ron Klain sided with teachers unions on Tuesday against reopening schools without providing additional funds to allow for better compliance with social distancing protocols — despite several reports published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that a viable path to reopening schools exists.

Ron Klain wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera

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“What that study in Wisconsin from the CDC showed was that 17 rural schools that got a sizable grant from a private foundation to put in the kinds of safety measures they need — students in very small pods, classes of about 11 or 12, distanced, in a rural area — they could go to school safely,” Klain told CNN. “Gov. Polis is a great leader in this field, you know, he’s done a lot, but in other states, we haven’t seen those kinds of investments.”

Klain’s interview comes days after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to defy the Chicago Public School system’s reopening plan and refuse in-person work. It was the culmination of a monthslong fight over what measures ought to be implemented before teachers are expected to return and which teachers should be able to qualify for exemptions based on personal health factors and those of family members they live with, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. While the vote fell short of the legally mandated 75% necessary to authorize a contract strike, union leaders said the threshold isn’t necessary since teachers are insisting on working from home, not withholding labor.

The Wisconsin study wasn’t the only report the CDC published on Tuesday. Another study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed data from schools in Mississippi, North Carolina, and Wisconsin found that “the preponderance of available evidence from the fall school semester has been reassuring insofar as the type of rapid spread that was frequently observed in congregate living facilities or high-density worksites has not been reported in education settings in schools.”

“As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” the report read.

The study also stressed that successes in mitigating in-school outbreaks relied on many of the tactics Klain cited — avoiding “crowded classrooms with insufficient psychical distancing,” sports events, poor use of face masks, and “air conditioning that recycled interior are in closed rooms.”

“I don’t think unions are overruling studies,” Klain said. “I think what you’re seeing is that schools that haven’t made the investments to keep schools safe — again, the Wisconsin study were classrooms of 12 on average. That requires a lot more classrooms, a lot more teachers, you know, other kinds of arrangements to get them small. … So we need to do the things to open safely. Most of the teachers I talk to, they want to be back in the classroom as soon as everyone knows that it’s safe, and we as a country should make the investments to make it safe.”

President Biden has expressed similar concerns, telling reporters on Monday that “we should make school classrooms safe and secure” for students and teachers by improving ventilation and testing.

Tags: News, Ron Klain, Biden Administration, Coronavirus, Schools, Education

Original Author: Tyler Van Dyke

Original Location: Ron Klain sides with teachers unions on school reopening despite CDC studies

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Mamie M. Arndt