The bottom-up pressure to fully reopen the nation’s public schools was supposed to get a boost from new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). What emerged from the CDC wasn’t a path to reopening schools five days a week, but instead, the possibility they could be only partially open well into next year.

As Reason’s Matt Welch writes:

The CDC’s “science-based reopening” guidance includes five key considerations, presented in order of emphasis: 1) mask-wearing, 2) social distancing, 3) handwashing, 4) cleaning, and 5) contact tracing. Director Rochelle Walensky in a conference call emphasized “prioritizing the first two,” which means that in every school—including ones that are already open, using less stringent standards—there should be student distancing of “at least six feet,” accomplished if need be by “cohorting or podding of students.”

This six-feet rule, first promulgated by the CDC at the height of pandemic uncertainty last March, at a time when people were still wiping down groceries and it was hard to even fathom a room full of kids wearing masks, means in practice that adherents will be open in part-time “hybrid” settings indefinitely. It is for that reason that, ever since better research on kids and COVID-19 began accumulating last summer, pediatricians and infectious disease specialists have been recommending that the rule be relaxed.

Welch says the CDC, and the Biden administration, has put teachers unions ahead of kids:

By suggesting that desks be six feet apart instead of three, even as infections and hospitalizations continue to recede, this scientific body has openly disregarded science and smoothed the way for the government to hire more staff into a system hemorrhaging students. Unless this guidance is revoked, and soon, public schools in big cities likely will not be open full time even by September 2021.

Public schools, then, remain a political football. Perhaps the real question everyone should be asking isn’t when the public schools should reopen, but what should education look like once the pandemic is under control?