Congress confronts challenges of reopening schools

Washington D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congress took a closer look Thursday at the challenges schools are facing as the first day of school draws closer. A subcommittee focused on the coronavirus crisis held a remote hearing that included education and public health officials.

“We are all worried about the struggle of returning to school,” teacher Angela Skillings said.

While teaching summer school, Skillings says she contracted COVID-19. She survived. Her colleague didn’t.

“We can recover a child’s lost education but we can’t recover a life,” Skillings said.

Skilling, along with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, testified during the committee hearing led by Democratic South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn on how to get students back to school safely.

“We’re asking 15,000 school districts to become 15,000 health care providers without any real resources or expertise,” Duncan said.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azaz stands by the Trump administration’s call for in-person learning.

“What we provided is extensive guidance to schools’ administrators, to parents and guardians and to teachers about how to reopen schools,” Azar said. “We believe they can get back to school in a safe and sensible way if we put our minds to it.”

But already parents are pulling their kids out of the classroom.

Nick Welch says he felt he had no other choice but to withdraw his 7th-grade student Nia because her Northern Virginia school, Christ Chapel Academy, wouldn’t allow for virtual learning.

“Well you don’t like what we’re doing you can withdraw your child,” Welch said.

For the sake of Nia’s classmates, he hopes the school leadership changes their mind.

“We want our voices heard.”

Health experts agree reopening schools is a community decision that should be based on the number of cases in the area.

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