Harder, Taylor Ask Ed Dept for Clearer Guidance on School Reopening

June 23, 2020
Press Release
Local Administrators Seek Assistance with Reopening in the Fall

WASHINGTON – Representatives Josh Harder (CA-10) and Van Taylor (TX-03) today led a bipartisan letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her Department to take a more active role in helping local schools reopen campuses safely for the Fall semester. Reps. Harder and Taylor have both heard concerns from local teachers and parents. Among other issues, the representatives asked Secretary DeVos to help schools answer key questions including social distancing, acquiring soap and sanitizer as well as personal protective equipment (PPE), daily testing and health checks, dividers for students, and more direction on the administration of distance learning technology.

“I have heard from a ton of parents and educators who really need answers on what the fall is going to look like for their kids’ schools.” said Rep. Harder. “Secretary DeVos must issue guidance to the local teachers and administrators who are hungry for some direction on how to protect themselves and our kids.”

“Ensuring our children as well as the teachers, administrators, and staff dedicated to their learning and development have the supplies and resources needed to stay healthy is my top priority,” said Congressman Van Taylor (TX-03). “To that end, as we begin discussions on how to safely reopen schools in the fall, it’s critical the Department of Education provide clear guidance to school districts across the nation so educators can provide students with the nurturing, safe learning environment they deserve.”

"Josh is bringing to bear some of the most critical and fundamental questions that families, community members and school personnel must know in order to begin a transition to safe schools that will serve all of our children.  I commend Josh Harder for asking important questions that need answers as we all work through his uncertain reality,” Kevin Quinones from the Modesto Teachers Association said in a statement.

“It is critical that our schools open safely for students in August, preferably with all students present full time. Our children can ill afford the impacts of additional missed instructional time on their education,” said Scott Siegel, Superintendent Ceres Unified School District. “Another year of lost classroom time and distance learning will be devastating, particularly for our more needy students. With that in mind, we need guidance and assistance that will allow us to reopen safely without unreasonable impediments to doing so. I would call on our state and national leaders to provide material and fiscal help so we can achieve the goal of all students, every day, safely.” 

 

The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter. With states across the country announcing efforts to resume on-campus instruction this Fall it is imperative that our K-12 leaders are given guidance for reopening our school campuses. We write to you today to urge you and your department to issue guidance and training for our educators to safely reopen schools this Fall.

It remains unclear as to what the reopening of our nation’s campuses will look like. That uncertainty coupled with budget cuts in the wake the COVID-19 health crisis has presented our schools with unprecedented challenges for resuming on-campus instruction. Additionally, health and safety concerns are still present for our teachers and parents. 1 in 5 teachers say they are unlikely to go back to school if their classrooms reopen in the fall, and a parallel poll found that 6 in 10 K-12 parents are likely to pursue at home learning options rather than in-person school.  

We have heard from teachers and administrators throughout our districts who are concerned about the safety of their students and their families and are looking to your department to provide training and direction on how to safely and responsibly reopen campuses this Fall. Some of those challenges that are creating concerns for our teachers and parents include managing multi-staggered class start times and extra safety precautions regarding food preparation, transportation, and social distancing during instruction when these campuses are reopened. It is because of these challenges that we urge your department to provide more guidance on the resources, training, and best practices to support schools in their re-opening efforts. Specifically, campus leaders are asking for guidance on the following: 

  • Acquiring soap and sanitizer in classrooms and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Preforming daily health checks and on-campus testing
  • Acquiring desk dividers for students
  • Acquiring technology for potential part time remote instruction and best practices for remote learning
  • How to properly socially distance during on campus instruction and how to safely transport students to and from campus.

These challenges underscore your department’s vitally important role in issuing guidance to campus leaders across the country who will be working tirelessly this Summer to ensure our students’ safety when they return to class this Fall.

Students, parents, teachers, and administrators are depending on us as leaders to provide direction on the safe reopening of campuses this Fall, which is why we are urging your department to issue guidance on how to successfully, and safely reopen. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.