WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement today following President Biden’s plan with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to safely reopen schools.

“The Biden Administration and Democratic leaders have put forward a good road map to getting our kids back to school.  I strongly support the continued discussions between educators, administrators, and public health officials on charting the best path to enabling our schools to reopen for in-school instruction in a way that ensures the safety of all involved.  Studies and analysis have made clear that in-person learning is crucial for our children, but we must do the work necessary to make sure that it can be done safely, and with buy-in and support from educators and families alike. 

“I want to sincerely thank all the educators, parents, school administrators, public health officials, and others who have reached out to me to answer questions and offer perspectives on how to handle this difficult public policy challenge.  It has helped me understand how best to approach it. 

“First, I strongly support the swift passage of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package. The pandemic exposed the cracks in our systems, and we know both COVID-19 and the economic recession have disproportionately impacted low-income households, people of color, and families with essential workers.  The relief bill contains critical funding for schools as well as economic support for struggling families. Its passage will not only make safe reopening more achievable but will help meet many of the other underlying structural inequities faced by communities hit the hardest as well.  States should ensure that this federal funding is provided to school districts in addition to existing state and local resources, as opposed to making harmful cuts at this time of crisis. I will continue to work to ensure the passage of this legislation as quickly as possible.

“Next, we must work quickly to ensure all educators and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccination is not absolute, one-hundred percent protection, but it does greatly decrease the risk of infection.  There are roughly 150,000 school personnel in our state of over 7 million people, so prioritizing them would not significantly set back vaccine distribution to other populations.

“We should also work towards a plan that gives people an option of either returning to school in person or continuing online learning to the greatest extent possible.  I understand how difficult this is, but the truth is every person’s situation is different in terms of pre-existing conditions, people in their households, tolerance for risk, need for/access to childcare, and many other factors.  Across the country, we have seen this model work and we must be willing to give flexibility to all involved.

“It is crucial that any plan for returning to the classroom is developed in close consultation with educators and other school district personnel.  They are the ones most impacted and also the ones with the most direct knowledge of how to make any implementation plan work effectively in the school and classroom.

“I want to express my deepest appreciation to all educators, administrators, school board members, school personnel, and parents who have had to struggle since last March to figure out how best to take care of our children during this pandemic.  This has demanded great sacrifices from educators and staff, who have gone the extra mile to ensure students have access to the resources needed for digital learning.

“My son is now in his senior year and as challenging as this has been for our family, I know that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the challenges so many people have faced across our district, state, and the country.  It has not been easy, but with the help of educators, family, and neighbors, people have been able to meet the challenge.

“The bottom line is: it is up to policymakers and school districts to make every effort to develop safe reopening plans that have buy-in from educators, staff, and families. This will require difficult conversations, and it demands that we listen carefully to each other’s concerns. I look forward to continuing the conversation and will continue to fight for additional resources from the Federal Government to provide school districts with the resources necessary to carry out safe reopening plans that address each community’s unique concerns.”

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