Teachers who are exposed to COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, could be allowed to return to the classroom to teach under guidelines offered by the Trump administration, The Associated Press reported.
Across the country, schools are grappling with the matter of bringing back students and teachers while a pandemic rages. Educational institutions are seen as places of particular note when it comes to spreading the virus, as they bring crowds of people into tight quarters indoors for long periods of time.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, several schools have reopened for in-person instruction, only to have children — in some cases hundreds of them — and teachers sent home to quarantine, usually for 14 days, after possibly being exposed to the virus.
President Donald Trump, for his part, has been bullish on getting kids back into the classroom for in-person instruction, even going so far as to threaten to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t fully re-open and allow kids back into the buildings.
To that end, on Thursday, the Trump administration released guidance that declares teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers,” which means that, should they be potentially exposed to the coronavirus, they could still be allowed back into the classroom.
Certain states, including Tennessee and Georgia, have already instituted their own polices that allow for teachers potentially exposed to COVID-19 to remain in the classroom if they are not exhibiting symptoms.
Tennessee teacher Hillary Buckner, who teaches Spanish at Chuckey-Doak High School in Afton, said that allowing teachers who have potentially been exposed to still teach in the classroom could result in spreading the pathogen to others.
“It essentially means if we are exposed and we know we might potentially be positive, we still have to come to school and we might at that point be carriers and spreaders,” she said.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said that the administration’s directives have “no legal merit” and are “more of a rhetorical gambit to give President Trump and those governors who are disregarding the advice and guidance from public health experts an excuse to force educators into unsafe schools.”
However, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican who welcomed the guidelines, noted that each district can decide for itself whether or not to abide by the new guidance.
“The decision is the district’s. If they make that decision, we have given them guidance that they must follow if they choose that critical infrastructure designation,” he said.