The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines to help schools decide whether they can safely reopen.
Most U.S. school systems have been holding classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC's new guidance suggests schools can safely reopen if they take the right protective measures.
For example, the health agency says teachers and students need to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
It says schools should also urge students to wash their hands often and advises that teachers keep children in smaller groups throughout the day to limit contact. The CDC says schools also need to disinfect classrooms and test any students, teachers or employees showing signs of the virus.
The agency said most schools can safely reopen even if all their teachers have not yet been vaccinated. However, the guidance suggests that educators receive vaccines as soon as possible.
The CDC said research has shown that in-person learning, especially for younger students, is not a major driver in spreading the virus.
The agency said the best way to make sure schools are safe is to work to control the virus in communities. It urged local leaders to continually carry out testing to be sure their communities are not experiencing a sharp increase in cases.
If there is a fast rise in cases, the CDC said, schools should change their teaching methods to keep some students at home.
The updated CDC information included a color-coded guide designed to help schools decide whether to open and when they need to close.
President Joe Biden said during his election campaign that he wanted to get most students back to in-school learning by the end of his first 100 days in office.
Educators agree that students learn best in the classroom instead of at home. But some teachers have worried that going back to class might be unsafe.
In Chicago, school leaders and the labor union that represents teachers recently made a deal to get students back to the classroom. The teachers had threatened to stop working at one point because they were concerned about their own safety.
Experts believe the U.S. economy will improve when students get back to school. Parents will be able to get back to work as a result.
Biden's COVID-19 recovery bill currently being considered by the U.S. Congress includes $130 billion to help schools. That money would be used to help schools prepare for reopening and provide protective equipment for teachers and school workers.
I'm Dan Friedell.