A number of states and local public school districts are still wrestling with how and when to re-open their doors to full-time, in-person instruction.

The nation’s largest public school teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), is pushing back against Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on re-opening, particularly the three-foot distancing requirement for kids.

The union says that’s weakened overall safety, which means other protocols need to be increased, including “universal masking, thorough cleaning of buildings, regular COVID-19 testing for staff and students, contact tracing and quarantine protocols and that schools have effective ventilation systems.”

Are these demands reasonable? One way to check is by looking at the schools that have been re-opened in some form for the last several months. What lessons do they have to share?

Plenty, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal:

Some of what they learned is consistent with what many scientists have been touting—that masking, ventilation, distancing and regular testing when possible are effective ways to reduce transmission of Covid-19 in schools. Other once-lauded tactics, such as daily temperature checks and deep cleaning of surfaces, have become lower priorities.

They also have learned that teachers, not their students, are likely the primary transmitters of the virus in grade schools, that children are likely most at risk of infection during lunch time, and that tools such as portable air cleaners and carbon-dioxide monitors can help.

And let’s not forget this one: “…it is likely fine for students to be 3 feet apart from each other instead of 6 feet…” 

So the unions aren’t wrong to want masking and testing. Cleaning isn’t all it was cracked up to be, and ventilation is a pretty big deal.

Getting teachers vaccinated is at the top of the “to do” list. And most states have prioritized teachers and staff for vaccinations. The problem here: there’s no real data anywhere on how many teachers and staff have been vaccinated. 

That’s a big problem for getting public schools re-opened. But it may also be a contributing factor to why more and more parents are seeking out private schools for their kids.

Image Credit: Michael Dorausch [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]