Teacher’s union issues 8 questions about CDC mask guidance

Educators now need more clarity on how the loosening guidelines will be applied in schools
By: | May 21, 2021
Teachers had hoped to have more time over the summer to incorporate changing COVID guidance into their back-to-school plans, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.Teachers had hoped to have more time over the summer to incorporate changing COVID guidance into their back-to-school plans, AFT President Randi Weingarten said.

The CDC’s big shift in masking guidance has created new challenges for “an exhausted and sometimes scapegoated workforce” of teachers planning for education’s recovery, the president of the American Federation of Teachers says.

While giving fully vaccinated Americans the OK to stop wearing masks, CDC and White House officials have also recommended that students and staff continue to wear masks through the end of the school year.

Still, educators now need more clarity on how the loosening guidelines will be applied in schools—particularly as states such as Iowa and Texas moved quickly in recent days to ban school masks mandates, AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote in a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“For those entrusted with the welfare of children—and those already navigating other aspects of recovery from this pandemic, including its effects on mental health, school readiness, and social and emotional well-being—any change or ambiguity in guidance triggers a significant impact on planning and classroom management,” Weingarten wrote.


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With the school year coming to end, members of the union had hoped to have more time over the summer to incorporate changing COVID guidance into their back-to-school plans, Weingarten said.

“To successfully return to school next fall, we must build broad-based confidence among educators, parents and our students, which can form the foundation of a safe and welcoming environment for all,” she said.

Mask-free fall?

Middle schools and high schools could mask-free in the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the White House, told CNBC.

“If the children get vaccinated, it is conceivable that that would actually wind up being a recommendation,” Fauci told CNBC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, more than half a million 12- to 15-year-olds had received a COVID vaccine, according to CNBC.

Weingarten said educators have the following questions about the months ahead:

  1. With the change in masking guidance, will the CDC still recommend layered mitigation strategies in schools that include 3 feet physical distancing, surveillance testing, occupancy, ventilation and filtration?
  2. For schools with children age 12 and older, what strategies and protocols will the education department and the CDC recommend on verification of vaccination status?
  3. In school settings for children under 12, where no vaccines are yet available for children, will the mask guidance continue, and if so, will it be limited to indoors or apply both indoors and outdoors?
  4.  Our members have expressed concern about being assigned the role of “mask police” at a time when they want to build trust and confidence with their students. Will the guidance include recommendations or protocols about mask enforcement and accountability?
  5. What will the CDC and the Education Department specifically do to build trust in the safety of returning to schools for families and communities that were already hesitant about safety?
  6. Will specific guidance be developed for schools and classrooms that include a mixed cohort of students, including children who are ineligible for the vaccine for health or age reasons? Will staff and students be required to continue to wear masks in these situations?
  7. With the number of conflicting policies about masks and vaccination across states, localities and facilities, is the CDC (and/or other agencies) acting with other government agencies so there is a common standard for workplace safety and labor protections?
  8. With variants like B.1.617 affecting younger children at higher incidence and severity than other mutations, are there special precautions that should be taken in schools this fall?