ATLANTA — The director of the Atlanta-based CDC is in the thick of the on-going debate about teachers returning to the classroom.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that teachers don't have to wait to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom.
But, not all agree.
And it’s all drawing attention, once again, to how safe the classrooms are for teachers, students and staff during the pandemic, and whether the vaccines will be the silver bullet for safety that everyone wants.
During an online White House coronavirus news briefing Wednesday, Dr. Walensky said that scientific data prove that students and teachers - using masks and social distancing - can be safe from the coronavirus in the classroom, and that teachers shouldn’t wait to get the vaccines.
“Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools,” Walensky said.
But Lisa Morgan, the president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said “Educators are scared."
Morgan said that - with or without a vaccine - there needs to be uniform standards of protections against the coronavirus in Georgia’s classrooms.
She pointed out that, for example, even though many schools require social distancing and masks, there is often no enforcement.
“Social distancing is something that is extremely difficult to do in a classroom, particularly with the class sizes that we typically have here in Georgia and the classroom spaces available," she said.
So, she said all Georgia schools should require and enforce:
- Social Distancing
- Smaller Class Sizes
- Ventilation / Clean Air in each classroom
- Frequent COVID Testing
- Reliance on the increasing or declining positivity rates in the schools' communities, in general, when making decisions about re-opening the schools and then keeping them open
“We need to talk about all these conditions that must be present in order for us to safely have our students and educators back inside their classrooms face to face,” Morgan said.
Parents and teachers, commenting on social media, are debating the CDC director’s comment that vaccines are not a prerequisite for teachers going back to class.
“Tell that to the teachers, staff and bus drivers who have died,” one person posted.
“We’ve been open all year and we’ve been okay” without the vaccines, wrote another.
Morgan said vaccines will help, but, by themselves, they’re not a silver bullet.
“As the vaccine becomes available, I do believe that’s another strategy added that will help educators feel more comfortable," she said.
President Biden’s goal is to put teachers back in the classrooms, and to start by reopening all of the nation’s K-8 schools to in-person learning, during the first 100 days of his administration—even if all teachers don’t have access to the vaccines, yet.