American political leaders are pushing for schools to reopen this winter as teachers started to receive COVID-19 vaccines. But others are concerned that they may not be ready.
Last Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion spending plan to fight the virus in the United States and help the nation’s economy. The plan calls for a national vaccine plan to administer 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his administration.
The incoming president added there will be money to “safely” reopen a majority of kindergarten-to-eighth-grade schools in the first 100 days.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California proposed a $2 billion plan to pay for testing, protective equipment and other safety measures to reopen the lowest grades as soon as February 16.
In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine offered to vaccinate teachers in February if the schools agree to have in-person teaching by March 1.
In Arizona, where teachers started receiving shots this month, Governor Doug Ducey said he expects students will return to the classroom soon. The money will not go to schools that remain closed in Arizona. “Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.” he said.
Teachers are still afraid to return in person
Arizona’s education officials and hospital leaders, however, disagree with the governor. They warn that the state has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the nation.
Johns Hopkins University reported, as of January 19, the U.S. has experienced 390,000 COVID-19 related deaths and more than 23 million confirmed infections.
Michael White is a doctor at Valleywise Health in Phoenix, Arizona. He said, “We understand that learning and bringing our children together is very important.” But to reduce the spread of the virus, he said children should not be outside of their family group.
Last week, officials in Chicago, Illinois began a slow reopening with the youngest students. Since teachers have yet to receive vaccines, officials are providing them virus tests on school grounds. But some teachers refused to return because of COVID-19 concerns.
Kirstin Roberts is a pre-kindergarten teacher in Chicago. She told the Associated Press, “I don’t believe it’s safe to reopen the schools. I don’t believe it’s safe for my family, I live with an elderly mom. I don’t believe it is safe for the city’s children or their families.”
Jeff Freitas is president of the California Federation of Teachers. The labor leader said vaccinations have to come first, then schools in California can talk about reopening.
“We cannot put our own lives, the lives of our students, and our communities at risk during what is clearly an escalating crisis in our state,” he said.
California has only vaccinated health care workers and people in nursing homes so far.
Utah is one of the first states to vaccinate teachers over other groups. Gov. Spencer Cox has said he wants to vaccinate all teachers by the end of February.
Michael Crookston is a music teacher at Davis High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. He said the COVID-19 vaccine has “been a thing I’ve been looking forward to, a little bit like Christmas.”
I'm Armen Kassabian.
And I'm Jill Robbins.
Lindsay Whitehurst, Terry Tang and Allen Breed from the Associated Press reported the story. Armen Kassabian adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
administer – n. to manage the operation of (something, such as a company or government) or the use of (something, such as property)
kindergarten – n. a school or class for very young children
grade – n. a level of study that is completed by a student during one year
escalating – v. to become worse or to make (something) worse or more severe
nursing home – n. a place where people who are old or who are unable to take care of themselves can live and be taken care of