The Anchorage School District is set to begin a phased approach to returning children and staff back to school January 19 — just one day before President-Elect Joseph Biden and his new administration enter the White House on January 20.
Prior to the election, Biden delivered remarks about schools reopening, saying that “everyone wants our schools to reopen” but also acknowledged concerns that educators and school staff have. Biden said in a three-minute video address that “forcing educators and students back into a classroom in areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous.”
The President-Elect and his wife Dr. Jill Biden, who is an educator, have said that reopening schools should start with getting COVID-19 cases down in each community and that school staff should be supplied with adequate PPE. Biden also says that as president, he will empower local decision-making while still setting clear national safety guidelines for schools to follow, given that the “Trump administration’s chaotic and politicized response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own.”
Biden is proposing $130 billion for K-12 schools to help them reopen safely. The money is meant to help the President Elect reach his goal of having a majority of the nation’s K-8 schools open within his first 100 days in the White House. Schools could use the proposed funding to cover a variety of costs, including the purchase of masks and other protective equipment, upgrades to ventilation systems and staffing for school nurses.
According to the Biden administration’s transition website, President-elect Biden will direct the CDC to provide specific evidence-based guidance for how to turn the dial up or down relative to the level of risk and degree of viral spread in a community.”
Returning to school conversations in Anchorage have cooled publicly as of late, but some teachers and school staff have privately expressed concerns that school district employees still have not been vaccinated — especially in light of new reporting over the weekend stating that the U.S. does not have a reserve stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines.