The nation’s two biggest teachers unions have praised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new coronavirus guidance for schools, saying it offers a “roadmap” for a return to normal, even as some states go a different route.
The CDC announced Friday that schools can go without masks indoors, as long as students are fully vaccinated. The agency also recommended that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.
The guidance, however, is only a recommendation. Some states have dropped mask mandates, such as Rhode Island, which did so at the end of June, according to USA Today.
The unions, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, praised the CDC decision as “grounded in both science and common sense,” The New York Times reported.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said mask guidance previously posed a tricky problem for teachers since the student population was a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
NEA President Becky Pringle called the guidance “an important roadmap for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools,” Newsweek reported.
“There is no substitute for in-person learning, and we look forward to all students returning to school in the fall,” Pringle said in a statement.
Both groups urged students who are eligible to receive the vaccine as soon as they can so that the schools can stay ahead of the fast-spreading Delta variant.
“This is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and each other, and especially to protect those who cannot yet be vaccinated, including children under 12,” Pringle added.
However, California issued immediate counter-guidance, mandating masks in the fall for teachers and students alike.
“Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction,” said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly.
“At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated — treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment,” he said.
The emphasis on physical distancing is the sticking point for California: Not all schools and districts can comply with physical distance requirements, so they will observe more restrictive measures for the time-being.