April 29 (UPI) -- A major U.S. teachers union has released a plan for the gradual reopening of schools it says stands in contrast to the rhetoric coming from the White House.
The American Federation of Teachers with more than 1.7 million members on Wednesday released a 20-page, five-point plan to reopen schools absent of a COVID-19 vaccine, stating it's founded on science and "not on politics or wishful thinking."
School facilities in 43 states, four U.S. territories and the District of Columbia have either shuttered or have been recommended to shutter for the rest of the academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Education Week reported.
Since emerging in Wuhan, China, in December, the virus has spread the world over infecting more than 3 million people, a third of whom reside in the United States, making it by far the worst affected country in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Responding to reports Trump on Monday urged governors to "seriously consider" reopening, the National Education Association, the country's largest union with more than 3 million members, said the primary driver of when schools should reopen is the health and safety of the students and teachers.
"We are listening to the health experts on how and when to reopen schools -- not the whims of Donald Trump who boasts about trusting his gut to guide him during this unprecedented global health crisis," NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement. "Bringing thousands of children together in school buildings without proper testing, tracing and social isolation is dangerous and could cost lives."
For schools to gradually reopen, the American Federation of Teachers called for at least 14 consecutive days of declining coronavirus cases; infrastructure and resources to test, trace and isolate new cases; deployment of public health tools that prevent the virus' spread and align with education strategies; involvement of all segments of the community; and recovery investments for schools, universities, hospitals and local and state governments.
"American is staring down a singular challenge that will require all of us to come together and negotiate a safe path forward," Weingarten said. "By drawing on facts and science, and the expertise of educators and healthcare practitioners, we have drafted a bold five-point plan that aligns necessary public health tools, student instructional needs and logistics to gradually -- but safely, equitably and intentionally -- reopen our schools and communities."