Are schools safe to reopen?
The American Federation of Teachers, the second largest teacher’s labor union in the country with 1.7 million members, has weighed in, declaring that school buildings can be open in places only where:
1. The average daily community infection rate among those tested for COVID-19 is below 5 percent and the transmission rate is below 1 percent.
2. There is effective disease surveillance, tracing and isolation in the region.
3. Staff who are at high risk for serious health problems or death if they contract COVID-19 have access to special accommodations or workplace adjustments.
4. There is a statewide, city- and/or community-level authority empowered to trigger closure in the event of a spike in infection or when public health standards aren’t being met.
5. The district and school have developed and funded proper safeguards and practices to protect health and safety, including: Physical distancing of 6 feet; Face coverings to be worn by students and staff; Access to well-stocked hand-washing facilities; Resources and staffing to adequately clean and sanitize facilities and buses; and necessary updates to ventilation and building systems.
6. AFT members and leaders as well as families and community partners are at the table together envisioning and implementing plans to reopen our schools.
As of July 28, only weeks before many districts are set to reopen, only 5 states meet the AFT positive test and transmission rate requirements which are based on recommendations from the WHO. In districts where these health precautions are not met, endangering students and staff, the union says it will support local teachers strikes.