Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of school superintendents and state education commissioners, today issued the following statement.
The federal government must immediately make Covid tests available at scale to every school in the United States and deliver clear guidance about appropriate quarantine protocols and other health measures for this phase of the pandemic.
With the Omicron variant driving a surge in Covid cases, schools need a regular and reliable supply of tests to support the uninterrupted in-person learning that children require and families expect.
It is painfully obvious how detrimental this pandemic and virtual learning have been for our nation’s young people. Nearly two years into the crisis, however, we are at a much different place than when Covid began. We have the vaccine. It is free and widely available, and anyone age five and older can get it. The vaccine is safe–and it helps to prevent serious Covid illness and death. A combination of high vaccination rates and effective testing programs dramatically limits the need for quarantine, and gets us closer to the time when Covid will stop wreaking havoc on our daily lives and society overall.
Many districts have been effectively using test-and-stay procedures and other steps to protect health and keep schools open. Currently, though, a number of our chiefs are experiencing Covid test supply chain issues in their communities. We appreciate that the Biden Administration has acknowledged the shortage of tests in some parts of the country and has pledged to distribute half a billion more tests. Tests are needed on the ground today. We urge the administration to send them as soon as possible and to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that testing supply remains sustainable, predictable, and affordable.
The virus continues to evolve. While the Omicron variant has produced a spike in cases, the effects are less severe. It is essential that the government provide straightforward direction about what people need to do when conditions change–and indeed improve over time. Clear recommendations driven by facts and based on a holistic assessment of risks will help to cut through the noise and misinformation that is creating chaos when families are desperate for reason and stability. Guidelines about reduced quarantine periods and other revised protocols that are easy to understand and explain will help to ensure more people follow the recommendations. This is important for our ongoing progress in defeating the virus and overcoming its grip on our lives.
Children and families cannot return to the dark days of school closures. K-12 leaders need the administration’s continued support.