Alexander: 56 Million Students Going Back to School This Fall Will be Surest Step Toward Normalcy

Posted on June 10, 2020

“Any teacher can explain the risk of emotional, intellectual and social damage if a child misses a school year. 91.3 percent of families with children have at least one parent employed, and among married families with children, 64.2 percent had both parents employed. Many children live in environments where the school is the safest place they’ll be all day. It’s also the place where almost 30 million students receive a school lunch.”  Senator Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2020 — Senate health and education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said 56 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade going back to our 100,000 public schools and 34,000 private schools in the fall as safely as possible “will help our country take its surest step toward normalcy. 

Alexander made his remarks today during the Senate health and education committee hearing — “COVID-19: Going Back to School Safely” — which featured witnesses from across the country who are on the ground working to help students go back to school in the fall safely. 

Alexander continued: “A May 28 story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about schools planning for the 2020-2021 school year included a bittersweet image — a young girl reaching her hand out to touch a teacher, who is standing in line to welcome students to the first day of school in 2019. As the Commercial Appeal reporter writes: ‘The first day of school in August 2019 would flunk 2020’s course on social distancing.’

“The question for governors, school districts, teachers and parents is not whether schools should reopen – but how. Any teacher can explain the risk of emotional, intellectual and social damage if a child misses a school year. Schools need to assess how this year’s disruption has affected our children and get student learning back on track.”

Alexander suggested school boards, superintendents and principals should focus on the following steps:

  • Creating an environment where students and teachers can socially distance
  • Making modifications to the school year calendar and daily schedule
  • Preparing to integrate more distance learning
  • Restructuring classrooms and extracurricular activities
  • Providing meal services in a safe way
  • Making sure the school has gloves, masks, and other protective equipment
  • Protecting students and adults in the school buildings who are at a higher risk

Alexander concluded: “Today 91.3 percent of families with children have at least one parent employed, and among married families with children, 64.2 percent had both parents employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And many children live in environments where the school is the safest place they’ll be all day. It’s also the place where almost 30 million students receive a school lunch — more than 70 percent of those students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals. Administrators have a responsibility to make our schools among the safest small communities this fall. In doing so, they will help our country take its surest step toward normalcy.”

Read Chairman Alexander’s opening statement here.