Federal health and education officials urged the nation’s elementary and secondary schools on Friday to reopen safely as soon as possible, saying they can operate by strictly adhering to safety precautions to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission in classrooms and in their communities.
In new guidelines for schools, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said students, teachers and staff should be required to wear masks at all times and should maintain distances of at least 6 feet from one another as much as possible, with students divided into small groups that don’t mix with one another.
Also essential, the agency said, are proper hand-washing practices, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, and working with health departments to use contact tracing, isolation and quarantine to reduce the risk of transmission once someone has been infected.
Strictly adhering to these measures will reduce the risk of Covid-19 in schools even if transmission is high in the community, the CDC said.
The timing and logistics of bringing students back to schools without Covid-19 transmission has led to sharp debates between parents pushing for reopenings and cautious school systems, as well as tense negotiations between teachers’ unions and city governments.