ATLANTA, Ga. — The nation’s top public health agency has released a roadmap for reopening schools in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the long-awaited update Friday.
It emphasizes mask wearing and social distancing and other actions but saying vaccination of teachers is important but not a prerequisite for reopening.
The CDC cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened.
But they said there is strong evidence now that in-person schooling can be done safely, especially at lower grade levels, and the guidance is targeted at schools that teach kindergarten up to 12th grade.
"All mitigation strategies provide some layer of protection, but when implemented together they provide the greatest layer of protection," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Across Virginia, Gov. Northam has directed school divisions to provide options for students to return to in-person Virginia. Several local school divisions remain fully virtual, including Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, and Newport News.
Newport News has come out with a plan to return some students to in-person learning with others returning on March 8 in a hybrid system. "The goal was to remain foucsed on the goal of getting those students who need in-person instruction into a seat in our buildings with a competent teacher who can provide them with the quality instruction that they need," said Superintendent Dr. George Parker III.
Educators are in agreement students learning in-person is better for them. "Now is the time for us to move foward," said Parker. "We feel we can do it safely and we're best prepared to do so."