Richmond, VA — Hundreds of thousands of students and teachers across the Commonwealth are facing a disrupted start to the school year this week because Donald Trump failed to issue plans, guidance, and resources to ensure our schools can open safely. Despite insisting that schools “MUST” reopen in the fall for in-person learning, Trump did little to prepare for the new school year. Now students, faculty, and their families are struggling with outbreaks at schools, problems with virtual learning, and few plans from the current administration to contain the virus.
While infections spiked across the country, Trump spent the summer doubling down on his push to reopen schools. He falsely said that children were “virtually immune,” undermined remote learning, and threatened to cut federal funding from school districts that didn’t comply with his orders. “We got to open up. We got to open up our schools and open up our businesses,” Trump said on August 12, the same day the U.S. experienced a three-month high in COVID deaths.
In Virginia, the lack of planning from the federal government has left colleges to fend for themselves, and students are already experiencing a spike in cases across the Commonwealth. More than 550 positive cases were reported at Virginia colleges and universities before the end of August, and this week JMU is facing an outbreak with over 1,000 cases.
K-12 Students in rural Virginia are grappling with a lack of broadband internet that makes virtual learning more difficult, and some schools have already had to delay reopening because of outbreaks. Meanwhile students of color are facing a higher risk of infection. As VEA President Dr. James Fedderman wrote recently, “we wouldn’t even be debating whether it was safe to attend schools in person if Donald Trump had simply done his job and come up with an even adequate COVID response.”
“While parents, teachers, and students have spent the last few weeks struggling to prepare for the start of school, Trump spent the past three weekends golfing at his club in Virginia. The president had the entire summer to put plans in place to keep students and teachers safe as they went back to school. Instead he wasted time threatening to cut school funding, attacking virtual learning, and spreading misinformation about the virus. Now Virginian students, teachers, and their families are paying the price for his incompetence,” said DPVA Communications Director Grant Fox.