WASHINGTON — Parents and teachers are reacting to comments the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently made in regard to school closures. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told reporters Thursday his agency never recommended schools close in the spring nor has he recommended they do so now.
“The truth is, for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school," he said.
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Redfield said the CDC has newer data to rely on to help it make such claims.
“Today, there's extensive data that we've gathered over the last two to three months to confirm that K-12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning and they can do it safely and they can do it responsibly,” he said.
Local school systems have taken different approaches to learning in the age of COVID.
St. Mary’s County Public Schools recently paused its hybrid model due to a local covid case spike. Montgomery County Public Schools plans to remain fully virtual through January.
However, some parents say they are pleased with Redfield's comments.
Montgomery County parent Deborah Schoenfeld switched her kids to private school this year due to COVID restrictions in her community.
"Schools are so important that we really need to get these children back for in-person learning," she said. "I think it takes a lot of bravery for someone like Dr. Redfield to be making these statements."
Mike Pereira, another MCPS parent, said his family decided to homeschool their children over the summer because it looked like everything would be limited to virtual learning.
"We didn't want to take a chance on taking our kids to even a private school that could be virtually doing classes," he said.
Pereira said he was also happy to hear what Redfield said Thursday. However, he said it found it heartbreaking because many families are still in a position where their children must learn virtually.
"It's really challenging for a lot of families," he said. "For us, we're sort of in a good spot because my wife is a speech therapist and is involved in our kids' education, as am I, during the course of a normal year. But, I'm not so sure other families around Montgomery County and elsewhere can do the same thing. It's very difficult."
Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles sent a letter to all private schools in his county Thursday.
It stated current data shows coronavirus cases attributed to exposure in Montgomery schools have been low. However, it also said that per guidance from the Maryland departments of education and health, all schools should strongly consider a return to full virtual learning due to the current COVID case surge.
Washintgton Teachers' Union President Elizabeth Davis told WUSA9 she thinks it is too early to begin in-person learning in the District.
"The messaging was that we should follow the science, nothing else, the science of what's happening," she said. "And, [the CDC's stance] clearly is suggesting that we should not."
Davis added that not all schools are well-off and have the resources needed to reopen safely. She said the White House still needs to provide funding to help all schools.
"They've basically starved jurisdictions and school districts of the funding they need in order to open schools safely," she said.
Redfield's comments also created some confusion Thursday. On the CDC's website, an old page shows the agency once shared guidelines with the country's schools as to what they should do if they decided to close due to the coronavirus.
WUSA9 reached out to DC Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Prince George's County Schools for comment regarding the CDC's stance. Those are some of the largest schools in the area that are predominantly virtual during the fall semester. None of them replied as of the publishing of this article.
The Maryland State Department of Education did release a statement regarding the CDC.
"MSDE continues to refer to the existing guidance in the Education Recovery Plan, as well as Covid-19 Guidance for Maryland Schools issued in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health, which support the reopening of schools."