The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are planning to issue new guidelines for opening schools, vice president Mike Pence said Wednesday.
Earlier President Donald Trump threatened to cut off federal funding for schools that will not open in the new school year.
Speaking at a meeting of the coronavirus working group at the Department of Education today, the vice president said the CDC will release a “new set of tools” next week that will provide “greater clarity on the way forward.
“The president said today that we don’t want the recommendations to be too hard,” Pence said.
CDC director Robert Redfield said the recommendations for opening the economy previously issued by the CDC were not binding.
“I would be very uncomfortable … if we could see that people are using the recommendations not to open our schools,” Redfield said.
The CDC has issued a number of recommendations to schools, including testing for COVID-19, dividing students into small groups, distributing packaged lunches in classrooms instead of cafeterias, and minimizing the sharing of school supplies.
The CDC recommends that desks be placed at least 6 feet apart and that partitions be installed in cases where social distance is not possible.
The administration added that local authorities would adapt the recommendations for opening schools to their specificities and needs.
“Ultimately, it’s not about how schools should open, but how they should open,” Education Minister Betsy DeVos said at the briefing.
Under the Constitution, states are responsible for primary and secondary education, but some states are still postponing the decision to open schools for fear of a renewed coronavirus outbreak.
Acknowledging that the lion’s share of school funding comes from state budgets, Pence stressed that the administration would work with Congress to find ways that “encourage states … to bring children back to school.
The federal government could provide additional funding for schools, including through Congressional appropriations. Since Democrats control the House of Representatives, any attempt to cut funding to schools may be opposed.
Labour Minister Eugene Scalia stressed that opening schools is necessary for economic recovery.