Debate continues on how to safely reopen schools in the fall

U.S. & World

WASHINGTON D.C. (WCMH) — School districts across the country are planning for a return to class in the age of COVID-19 and one major concern on the horizon is the cost of keeping teachers and students safe.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says reopening schools should be handled with the same care as reopening businesses.

“Schools will need to create a strategy for testing and tracing students who may have been exposed,” Alexander said.

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin wants formal federal health guidelines.

“I believe it’s critical for the safety of educators as well as the students they serve that an OSHA standard be in place,” Baldwin said.

At a senate hearing, experts described a range of ideas to keep students safe from social distancing to maintaining online classes.

“School districts are going to have to do this in close consultation with local health experts,” said Dr. John King, CEO of The Education Trust.”

Tennessee’s education commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn says it costs money to keep students and teachers safe.

“The per student cost for hygiene, disinfecting materials is anywhere from $100 to $150 per student,” Dr. Schwinn said.

That could add up to tens of millions of dollars for some school districts even as many face budget cuts because of the pandemic.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy says Congress has no time to waste.

“The planning to make sure schools can reopen safely is going to be done this summer,” Murphy said.

Lawmakers say the next COVID-19 relief bill could include money for schools, but there’s no indication when that legislation might come together.

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