‘No Perfect Solution’ to Reopening Schools: Teachers Union Head

February 22, 2021 Updated: February 22, 2021

Randi Weingarten, the head of one of America’s largest teachers labor unions, says that there is “no perfect solution” for safely reopening schools for in-person teaching amid the CCP virus pandemic.

“There’s no perfect solution, but frankly I think New York City has done a pretty good job in terms of showing the way,” said Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents some 1.7 million teachers, including 1 million for pre-K–12.

“Big school district, lots of issues in terms of old buildings, and we learned a lot from what New York City did in September and October,” she told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 21.

During a CNN town hall in Milwaukee last week, President Joe Biden clarified that his aim is now to reopen the majority of K–8 schools for in-person learning five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office.

“There’s a roadmap now, and so, you actually can follow that roadmap in terms of defining those risks,” Weingarten said. “And I think between the CDC guidance as well as the resources President Biden is trying to get in the $1.9 trillion package, we have the highway or the roadmap that allows us” to reopen schools safely for in-person learning.

The president has listed a number of measures he believes must be taken in order to safely reopen schools for in-person learning, including smaller class sizes and wearing personal protection such as masks.

Teachers should also be prioritized even further for vaccinations against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, Biden said.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief proposal includes a federal minimum wage increase, a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, and extended unemployment benefits. The president is asking Congress for nearly $130 billion for K–12 schools in his relief bill “to support schools in safely reopening.”

“It comes down to three things … the layered mitigation strategies, the testing, so you can actually see asymptomatic spread, and vaccine prioritization,” Weingarten said. “Not that every single teacher needs to be vaccinated before you open any schools, but you should align the vaccine prioritization with the reopening of schools.”

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that more space for children, fewer children in classrooms, more nurses and staff, and screening are among some of the measures needed in schools in order to mitigate the spread of the CCP virus.

CDC officials earlier released a summary of recent studies that looked at the effect of school reopenings on transmission of COVID-19.

Research both inside and outside the United States shows “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” they said.