The first 100 days of the Joe Biden presidency has seen an extraordinary number of executive orders signed, apparently in a bid to renounce everything Donald Trump did during his four years in office. Whether Biden is meeting his promises made for the honeymoon period is debatable, but one goal is set so low that he won’t have to lift a finger to reach it: the determination to reopen the majority of schools. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, told reporters during a recent press briefing:
“[Biden’s] goal that he set was to have the majority of schools – so more than 50 percent, open by day 100 of his presidency, and that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week, hopefully it’s more, and obviously it is as much as is safe in each school and local district.”
Way Ahead of You, Joe
In the United States, nearly 20 million children have been kept from attending in-person classes for nearly a year during this pandemic. Biden has called it “a national emergency” but is he doing anything beyond what is already being done to return children to school? In November and December, Education Next released a study that found that 47% of students had some in-person classes, at least once a week. Fox News commented on a report from the Burbio School Opening Tracker on Feb. 11:
“According to data from Burbio, a digital platform that tracks school data from across the country, 66 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grade are already attending traditional in-person classes five days a week, or are on a hybrid schedule – meaning they attend at least one day a week or more.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that schools could reopen safely, and this without teachers needing to be vaccinated first. In November, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “The extensive data that we’ve gathered over the last two to three months to confirm that K-12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning, and they can do it safely, and they can do it responsibly.”
So, recircling to the question: What is the president doing above or beyond what is already being done across the nation? Is this just an opportunity for a pat on the back for a job well done without the effort it would take to pick up a pen and sign an order? Shouldn’t more be done to resume in-person instruction, especially since the CDC has given the go-ahead? Follow the science, right?
The Deadly Consequences of School Closures
The question must be asked: Which is more dangerous, catching or spreading the virus (when authorities in the know have already said schools are not as dangerous as everyone is thinking) or children becoming severely depressed and even committing suicide? NPR reported earlier this month on the alarming rate of suicides among young students.
In a school district in Las Vegas, 19 students died by suicide just since March, when the shutdown first began. The Clark County district became so alarmed it started fast-tracking in-person teaching. According to the news source, hospitals have listed at least seven states that have reported a surge of suicidal children.
Several outlets have listed concerns about domestic violence, child abuse, and drug and alcohol addiction getting much worse since states have sequestered their citizens. When it comes to school-aged children, there is also the concern of getting healthy meals. Without the breakfast and lunch programs available, that worry is much greater. Plus, add in the parents who have lost income or lost their jobs entirely due to the pandemic, and the threat grows more serious.
According to Feeding America, more than 50 million people in the U.S., which includes 17 million children, may be suffering from “food insecurity” due to the pandemic.
So, while Biden’s goal to reopen the majority of schools is a noble one, it is misleading since he is only asking for at least once a week of in-person teaching, which is already being done across the nation. Meanwhile, children are suffering from abuse, hunger, depression, and suicide while the adults bicker and barter over a virus with a more than 97% survival rate.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.