‘There Are No Risk-Free Propositions’ But This Former Education Secretary Says Schools Must Reopen

“Above all, strategies need to be accommodated to the local situation,” says former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

By Laura RiceAugust 11, 2020 7:02 am, ,

As schools start to reopen, there’s a lot of debate among school leaders, teachers and families about how to do so safely.

Some former federal officials shared their ideas about in-person schooling during the pandemic in a Atlantic magazine Op-Ed published in July, titled, “These 8 Basic Steps Will Let Us Reopen Schools.”

Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings contributed to the article. She’s currently president of the nonprofit Texas 2036. She told Texas Standard that reopening plans have to fit local needs.

“Every single city, every single community, every single school district really has its own hand to play,” she said.

Spellings said local officials need to tailor school reopenings to the needs of the local student population, the workforce and how much COVID-19 has affected their communities. In the article, Spellings and her coauthors talk about basic guidelines they think could help. But the bottom line, she said, is most schools need to reopen for some form of in-person instruction.

“We know that students need to be engaged with their peers and with their teachers to learn productively and effectively. Keeping students progressing, keeping them on track, requires that human connection with an adult,” Spellings said.

This is especially true for some students who come from families with low incomes. And many students also rely on school for socialization, food services and mental health resources.

“We’re seeing studies now where students will be impacted with lifetime income loss because of the gap that this situation is creating for them,” Spellings said. “We know we want our students learning productively, preferably in person.”

She admitted that no reopening plan will be perfect; “there are no risk-free propositions,” she said. But she also said the United States could look to other countries to see how they’ve handled their reopenings.

Web story by Sarah Gabrielli.

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