As states and public health officials work to try and sort out what reopening schools would look like in the future following closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said older teachers may need to stay home "for a little while" whenever students and other teachers ultimately return to the classroom.
During a Fox News virtual town hall earlier this week, Trump remained optimistic that students will be heading back to school in the fall, although school officials have cautioned that reopening will be complicated. In Illinois, for instance, State Supt. of Education Carmen Ayala said remote learning could carry on in 2020-21 academic year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
While answering a question from high school freshman who asked how she'll feel safe in schools if a "second wave" of the coronavirus outbreak occurs — a possibility health officials have warned could happen — Trump said students "may wear masks for a while and they may be separated further than what they’re used to."
However, Trump also said that older teachers pose a "bigger problem" for reopening. "But I do worry about teachers at a certain age... Students are going to be fine," Trump said. "... But if you have a teacher that's 65 or 70 years old and has diabetes, that one, I think, they’re going to have to sit it out for a little while."
"We have to go back," Trump said, referring to schools. "We have to go back. And whatever it is — I would say, with the exception of teachers at a certain age, maybe they should wait until this thing passes. It will pass. You know, it’s going to pass."
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that people 65 years and older and those with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the health agency has said that there is "much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children."
Although Trump has been pushing for governors to "get going" on opening schools again, each state will determine their own plans to reopen, according to NPR. For instance, Alabama State Supt. Eric Mackey told AL.com echoed Trump's comments and said that school districts will "need to consider the age of teachers" as they plan for the next school year. Meanwhile, New York City schools could continue remote learning in the fall, as the New York Post reported.
In a recent statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said it supports "collaborative decision making" between school districts and local and state public health departments when it comes time to determine how schools should be reopened. The AAP said decisions should be based on several factors, such as the amount of COVID-19 cases in the community, testing availability, and implementing measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in schools. It's likely that schools will have to ramp up cleaning measures and reduce class sizes, as NPR explained.
Schools will undoubtedly look much different next academic year and how exactly to protect students and teachers has yet to be determined.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.