Children Should Be Back in Classrooms ‘Full-Time, Every Day’: Education Secretary

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
December 30, 2021 Updated: December 30, 2021

As public school officials across the country weigh options amid the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Thursday said students should be in classrooms learning in-person every day when possible.

Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Cardona was asked what schools should do in response to the increasing CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infections driven by the Omicron variant. The Omicron concern has prompted some schools to send students home early before Christmas, while other schools are considering a delay of the new school year or a temporary return to remote instructions.

“If you’re fully staffed to provide a safe school environment, students should be in the classroom full-time every day,” Cardona replied. He noted that many schools managed to reopen for in-person instructions this fall, at the peak of the Delta variant wave.

Cardona then pointed to the availability of more resources and strategies for keeping schools open, as well as the harmful impact of school closures on children.

“We know what works, we know mitigation strategies work. Now we have access to vaccines for children as young as five. We know what to do. And let’s remember our students suffer when they’re not in the classroom,” he said.

Cardona added that he was “pleased” with new guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which halves the 10-day quarantine period for teachers and staff who test positive for COVID-19. He said this will help schools ease their staffing problem.

“I’m really pleased with this, because to me, what this is going to do is allow for some of the staffing issues to go away,” he said. “We know that many schools couldn’t open because teachers or educators were in quarantine. The fact that it’s shortened now allows for educators to get back to the classroom and our students to have schools open.”

Cardona’s comments come as local and state officials rush to implement new testing requirements ahead of the 2021–2022 school year. In Washington D.C., public school students, teachers, and staff were told that they must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result in order to return to classrooms.

“Any student that does not have their results uploaded by Jan. 4 will not be allowed to attend school on Jan. 5,” D.C. Public School Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said at a Dec. 29 press briefing.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that the state is increasing the availability of at-home COVID-19 tests so K-12 public school students can be tested as they return to school from winter break. Earlier this month, California’s public health department distributed approximately 2 million tests to schools, providing one to two rapid tests for every student.

Bill Pan