New report says schools should be able to return safely if protocols are followed

Posted at 3:15 PM, Jan 28, 2021

There's new data and opinions from CDC researchers on opening schools safely and what's happening in communities that have in-person learning.

A data and policy viewpoint paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows case studies out of Mississippi and North Carolina when schools opened. It found virus transmission within schools was very rare.

Also, most kids were exposed while attending gatherings and social functions outside the home or by visitors in the home.

In Wisconsin, where kids were wearing masks, there was less COVID-19 in schools than in the community.

“The kids are completely on board with the mask thing. I mean I’ve taught everything from kindergarten to fifth grade like in the last couple two, three, four months,” said Kathy Glasser, a longtime Florida substitute teacher with Kelly Education.

Glasser has been back in multiple classrooms since early fall. She says she's never had to quarantine over school exposure. She's sent sick kids home and does daily temperature checks on herself and students.

Glasser believes classrooms are safe and credits leadership with putting guidance in place and constant communication, but she also believes everyone has a role.

The vice president of Kelly Education in the southeast, Cheryl Courier, says one of the most disruptive things is opening and then having to close schools again because of outbreaks.

That's why the viewpoint paper points to some school activities which aren't appropriate and have led to outbreaks, like wrestling tournaments.

Federal health officials say communities have to also be on board with reducing community spread by limiting things like indoor dining.

“I think schools have done a really good job on their own with very limited resources. There's still lots of places in the country where districts are not enforcing a mask requirement,” said Courier.

The American Federation of Teachers has been advocating for schools to reopen by following the science – using masking, social distancing and testing in communities with lower to moderate spread.

Now they, along with every other education professional we talked to, are advocating for teachers and school staff to be a priority for vaccines.

“They know in-school learning is important, but they have a right to be safe and that's what we're trying to help put together in every district,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Some areas have started vaccinating or signing up teachers, but supply is a challenge.

The CDC does include teachers in the second priority group for vaccines, but it’s ultimately up to states and jurisdictions how to hand out vaccine supply.