SPASH is located at 1201 North Point Dr. (Metro Wire photo)

CDC releases guidelines for reopening schools

By Patrick Lynn

The Centers for Disease Control on Friday released its much-anticipated guidelines for helping school leaders decide to how brings students back into the classroom safely.

The CDC isn’t mandating that schools reopen, but with the proper precautions, there’s no reason for schools to remain closed to in-person instruction, the agency said on Friday, billing the guidelines as a “one-stop-shop” to safely reopen schools.

The guidelines include precautions already required in most public places, such as wearing a face-covering, six feet of social distancing, and frequent handwashing. Frequent facility cleaning, contact tracing, and better ventilation in buildings are also part of the guidance.

The report advised that teachers should be given high priority for any available vaccination, saying it was an “additional layer of protection,” but CDC Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Friday in a call with reporters that “the science has demonstrated that schools can reopen safely prior to having all teachers vaccinated.”

To maintain the proper social distancing within the guidelines, the CDC recommends limiting the number of school visitors, keeping students in small cohorts or “pods” and staggering schedules.

The Stevens Point Area Public School District is already practicing those guidelines. According to Superintendent Craig Gerlach, students in grades 7-12 attend in-person classes two days a week in cohorts, while elementary schools, which have more opportunities for students to spread out, attend classes four days a week and report for e-learning one day per week.

“K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely,” the CDC’s Friday report said.

A group of students from SPASH began an online petition last week asking the district to get students back into the classroom.

“As students of SPASH, along with numerous district community members, many of us feel left in the dark and frustrated by the lack of a proper education,” the change.org petition reads in part. “The evidence is clear; students cannot learn online- a fact many know through first-hand experience. While we recognize the issues that come with reopening in the current situation, we believe that a number of new studies, coupled with low case rates in Portage County, would allow for a safe return to our school. As the days continue to pass by, we continue to wonder how long it will be until some action is taken.”