Student Well-Being

How the CDC and Pediatricians Differ on School Reopening Guidance

By Arianna Prothero — July 09, 2020 2 min read
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Two influential public health organizations—the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics—have released guidelines for schools on how to safely reopen this fall during the pandemic.

How do the two sets of recommendations differ from one another? And will the CDC alter its guidelines?

Exploring the Differences

For school administrators prepping reopening plans, there are a few but notable differences between the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics school reopening recommendations. Here are the most substantial differences EdWeek found, broken into four categories:

Political Flashpoint

Since the CDC released its recommendations in May, reopening schools has become a political flashpoint, and the White House has started agitating to get school buildings opened this fall.

President Trump said on Twitter that he disagrees with the CDC’s original recommendations, calling them too tough and expensive.

The AAP made a similar critique of the CDC guidelines in releasing its own, where the organization advocated strongly for having students physically present in school whenever possible. As the AAP says in its recommendations, “there is a conflict between optimal academic and social/emotional learning in schools and strict adherence to current physical distancing guidelines.”

The AAP pointed specifically to the CDC’s recommendation to space desks six feet apart, which may significantly limit the number of students who can attend school at the same time. There is evidence, the AAP said, that spacing desks as close as three feet may be nearly as good as six feet apart, particularly if students are wearing masks.

While mostly aligned with one another, the recommendations differ in some notable ways, as shown above, a few of which arise in what to prioritize when it’s not feasible to follow the best health practices.

However, the CDC guidelines may still change.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a White House briefing on Wednesday that the CDC will start rolling out new guidance for schools starting next week as part of a broader federal push to get school buildings reopened. Schools that don’t do so may risk losing federal funding, Pence said.

On Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield told ABC’s Good Morning America that the guidelines will be updated, but not substantially revised.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.