The Chancellor of New York City Public Schools on Thursday defended the district's plans to partially reopen this fall due to the corona virus, and told CNBC that "a perfect choice cannot be made here."
"The perfect choice would be that we have a vaccine and are back in business but we know that it is not," said Richard Carranza to "Closing Bell". "We try to select the least stressful from a portfolio of stressful decisions."
Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that the district intends that the vast majority of its 1.1 million students only personally teach two or three days a week. Students will take distance learning on the other days.
The plan has yet to be approved by Albany. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said on Wednesday that the state was awaiting its decision on whether its schools could be reopened in the fall of early August, referring to the rapidly changing dynamics of the nation's Covid 19 outbreak.
New York's plans to partially return students to school have been criticized by some who fear that this will endanger children's educational development. They are also worried about the burden on parents and guardians who would face additional childcare challenges and would help their children learn while doing their own work.
In the past few days, President Donald Trump has increased pressure on school districts in the United States to reopen in the fall, threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that don't have personal instruction. Trump and other officials argue that sending students part-time to school poses a greater health risk than the corona virus.
"It's not about opening their schools to public health. My position is that the public health of this nation's students is best achieved by reopening schools," said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield on Thursday in ABC's "Good Morning America".
At the center of the debate on the fate of schools this fall is the role of children in the transmission of the coronavirus and the health risks that infection poses to them.
Redfield said Wednesday the agency has no evidence that children are "driving the transmission cycle away." Later in the same meeting, the White House health advisor, Dr. Deborah Birx that more data is needed to reach this conclusion. Children were not tested enough to be sure of their role in fighting the epidemic.
Carranza explained the reasons for the New York City reopening plan and pointed to outbreaks of the virus in Texas childcare facilities as the state grappled with its worsening epidemic. According to the Texas Tribune, children make up about a third of the nearly 1,700 cases associated with state daycare centers.
Children have a lower risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19, as data show. However, Carranza emphasized that the health of teachers and staff must also be taken into account. "We have adults … in schools with children, some of whom may have pre-existing conditions or care for someone with pre-existing conditions," he said.
Carranza said New York's plan to send children to school two to three days a week was necessary to enable social distance in classrooms, as this would result in smaller class sizes. In addition, the country's largest district will have strict guidelines for the face covering of students and staff.
"We learn every day and every week how this is carried over and how it is presented to our population," said Carranza. "For us as educators who love children, we will not put children or their adults who serve these children in a state in which they may become infected or transmit this virus to those they love and for whom they are committed interested. "