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Reopening of schools, dilemma for Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is in a quandary over when to reopen the nation’s schools amid coronavirus restrictions, as Republicans qualify his promise to reopen schools in the first 100 days of his term as a sign of that it is weak against the teachers’ unions.

The Biden administration in recent weeks has delivered mixed or mixed messages about what the educational goal is. On Tuesday night, the president said that he meant that in the first 100 days the preschools would reopen five days a week, contradicting his own press secretary who had indicated last week that the schools will be considered open if they hold classes face to face once a week.

Biden’s aides have played down the controversy, saying it will dissipate once the pandemic is under control and most schools reopen. They point to recent polls according to which a majority of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the crisis.

Still, it could be costly for Biden if he fails to deliver on a promise related to such an important citizen issue.

Teachers unions have said they support reopening schools once the government can retrofit buildings, but they need the $ 130 billion in Biden’s rescue plan to make it happen. And even if the bailout is approved by Congress before the deadline set by Democrats in mid-March, it remains to be seen if the school authorities manage to condition the buildings within the first 100 days of the current presidency.

Dan Domenech, executive director of the Association of School Directors, stressed that teachers are willing to return to the classroom but “only if this bailout is approved, only if school districts receive the funding to be able to do the work they need to do. in terms of guaranteeing physical spaces between people, and only if the facilities can be disinfected and teachers vaccinated ”.

“It’s possible, but it doesn’t look likely right now,” Domenech warned.

The president of the Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, expressed in an interview her hopes that Biden will reach his goal, and that teachers will be able to return to the classroom once strategies to mitigate COVID-19 have been established. Still, he cautioned that even with the physical distancing between the students, it won’t feel normal.

“It will not be possible for each of the students, in each of the schools, to return to normality in the sense that we understand as normality,” Weingarten said.

Until the vaccination campaign achieves herd immunity, Weingarten stressed, “we will not return to a normal situation.”