Imani Baucom, a second-grade English teacher at the Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., instructs students remotely from her home in Bowie, Md., on May 4. Schools around the district, and nationally, closed months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
July 7 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump will have discussions Tuesday about sending American children back to schools this fall, several months after classes first closed and amid surges in COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will participate in a roundtable discussion at the White House Tuesday afternoon. The event follows multiple sessions in Washington, D.C., recently that examined how education officials can transition back to physical classes.
Senior administration officials told reporters in a conference call earlier that it's important for schools to reopen in the fall, as they fill critical needs for students and parents. Citing similar needs, the state of Florida on Monday ordered its schools to reopen next month.
Despite Tuesday's event and federal discussions, the ultimate decision about whether to reopen schools will be made at the state and municipal level.
"At the end of the day, these are state and local decisions," a senior White House official said. "We recognize education officials will need the leadership of public health officials. We are starting with the goal of having students physically in school [for the fall]."
Florida's order requires public schools to re-open in August and they must remain open at least five days a week.
Any decision to reopen classrooms in a few weeks is sure to be met by some opposition. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Monday the United States is still "knee deep" in the first wave of COVID-19 and still has a long road ahead before the end.
"We have confidence the local leaders are looking out for those best practices and leveraging those to make these decisions," the White House official added.
The official noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never recommended closing U.S. schools in the spring -- and said opening classes would actually be a benefit, since schools can provide health and other key resources for children.
The White House said Pence will speak to governors Tuesday in a conference call about re-opening schools. Panel discussions will then be held to focus on best safety practices and how the federal government can provide aid.
COVID-19 pandemic alters life in New York City
Pianist Kaliya Kalcheva performs on a Steinway & Sons piano in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on June 23 and New York City enters a new phase of reopening. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo