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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines today to say that with measures such as mask wearing and social distancing, schools can safely reopen for in-person learning. The guidance does not mandate that schools reopen, nor does it say that schools not following the guidelines need to immediately close. But the guidance does provide a roadmap for getting students back into the classroom. While there has been a big push to get teachers vaccinated, the new guidelines for reopening are not contingent upon this.

“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,” says the CDC. “This implies that schools should be prioritized for reopening and remaining open for in-person instruction over nonessential businesses and activities.”

This is big news for some parents who have wondered how restaurants and movie theaters were open while their schools were shut down.

The CDC recommendations include the old standbys we’ve come to know and live with such as hand washing, disinfecting of school facilities, diagnostic testing, contact tracing and more. An even stronger emphasis is being placed on mask-wearing.

“We know that most clusters in the school setting have occurred when there are breaches in mask-wearing,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, as reported by the Associated Press.

A color-coded chart was provided to aid in decision making on schools reopening.

And while the vaccination of teachers is an additional layer of protection it should not be a condition to reopening, said Walensky.

The announcement comes as President Joe Biden has promised to get the majority of schools back to in-person learning by his 100th day in office.

Keeping children on remote learning has proven to be socially isolating, a detriment to learning as well as impractical for working parents.

The CDC said there is little evidence that schools being open contributes meaningfully to the spread of COVID-19.

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