This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: President Trump’s Education Agenda, COVID-19 Outbreaks in Danbury, and Thinking About Air Quality As Schools Reopen.
Trump’s Education Agenda
The second night of the RNC convention is behind us, and the GOP has somewhat surprisingly abandoned the customary practice of releasing a party platform, beyond its support for Donald Trump and his own agenda. To that end, the President's reelection campaign released a list of priorities, which included only two items related to education: “Provide School Choice to Every Child in America” and “Teach American Exceptionalism”. (For those tracking at home, the latter was a phrase coined derisively to describe America by communist leader Joseph Stalin of the USSR.)
Danbury Outbreak Leads to Remote School Reopening
The city of Danbury has seen 200 cases of COVID-19 over a two week period, prompting a COVID-19 alert from the State Department of Public Health. Residents were encouraged to stay home, limit outings and indoor gatherings, wear masks, and avoid large outdoor gatherings. According to the Mayor, the outbreak stems from travel, youth sports, and worship services. Representative David Arconti has suggested a link to the power outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. On Monday, the city also announced that public school classes will now shift from a hybrid reopening model to a fully remote model, at least through October 1st. This makes the district only the second in the state (along with New Haven) to reopen entirely remotely.
The Importance of Air Quality As Schools Reopen
Proper air quality is critical to keeping in-person school activities safe. A Vox article last week explored guidelines for making indoor air safer by limiting the amount of virus in the air, ventilating, and filtering indoor air. Reducing the amount of virus in the air involves social distancing, mask wearing, and limiting activities like singing and shouting. Ventilation, on the other hand, is an effort to clean the air by mixing new, outdoor air into indoor spaces. Unfortunately, the Government Accountability Office recently published a survey of US school districts finding that 41% had outdated HVAC equipment in half of their schools. Opening windows would address this in some way. Lastly, filtration aims to clean the indoor air—rather than mixing in outdoor air. High-quality filters like HEPA filters, if properly installed and used, will filter practically everything out of the air, including COVID-19 particles. Among all the health and safety measures schools are taking, opening windows and filtering to keep the air clean should be high on the priority list. Along similar lines of considering air quality, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio this week suggested that teachers hold classes outdoors whenever weather permits, in their schoolyards, in city parks or playgrounds, or on sidewalks.