California Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra dodged a question on school reopenings during his Feb. 23 confirmation hearing.
During the hearing, Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins pointed to “losses in academic achievement, literacy, social and emotional development” as a reason to press for school reopenings. She also referenced a Washington Post op-ed which argued that three feet of distance between children is adequate for classroom learning, and that greater distancing will keep children out of school.
“Won’t maintaining this six foot recommendation, despite these very credible alternative views by healthcare experts, prevent many schools from resuming full-time in-person learning this year, and possibly even into next year?” Collins asked. (RELATED: CDC Director Changes Mind On Re-Opening Guidelines After Entering Biden Administration)
“No one wants to risk the life of their child, and no one wants to have a child be the reason an adult becomes ill from COVID,” Becerra said. “I believe… the best approach… is to let science guide us and to let the experts determine when it is safe, remembering that schools and education are a local issue.”
“We should not be the ones making the final decision on how and when a school will reopen,” Becerra continued.
“I would suggest that when the American Academy of Pediatrics is suggesting the harm… we need to broaden who we’re listening to,” Collins countered.
Multiple studies have shown that coronavirus spread rates among children are lower than spread rates among adults. A Yale University study from Oct. 2020 of 57,000 childcare providers found that daycare workers had virtually no risk to contract the coronavirus from the children in their care.
Despite this data, however, some of the largest school districts in the country remain closed as teachers unions have emerged as the primary obstacle to reopening in many locations.
Teachers in Chicago went on strike in January to avoid going back to in-person teaching, while the Washington, D.C. Attorney General recently requested a temporary restraining order to prevent D.C. teachers from striking.