In a story posted Jan. 17 on New York magazine’s website, Jonathan Chait called out liberals for continuing to defend the “failed experiment” of COVID school closures during the 2020-21 school year. CNN’s morning hosts on Jan. 18 discussed the issue with AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera and Cleveland-based writer and parent Angie Schmitt.

Asked by one of the hosts if an apology from progressives for their error in judgment is merited, Schmitt — who documented her disappointment with Democrats’ COVID school policies earlier this month in a story for The Atlantic — said she agreed.

“I don’t think [Chait] blamed the districts for closing in March 2020 … but by the fall, it was pretty clear from the science that schools were relatively safe,” Schmitt said. “The private schools [in my community] went back to school, wore masks, and went to school all last year, pretty much without incident — while my kindergartner spent the entire year sort of wasting away in front of a computer screen, like a lot of the public school students.”

“I believe teachers and I know teachers want to be in school, but they want to be in school where it’s safe and healthy,” Chiera said. “They understand the social, emotional and academic toll it took on students to stay home. But to bring us back to school was something that was not in the teachers’ control. 

She added, “The ventilation systems are old in many buildings, and truthfully, it’s going to take billions of dollars to fix them. Schools can’t do social distancing. Testing — we’ve been saying all along, one of the things we need is a rigorous testing system in schools so we can control or at least know if there’s a COVID outbreak. The outbreaks before this — testing in schools was very sparse. This time around, we’re starting to hear more and more about testing. And masks: We need to wear masks in school. I’m very pleased that Gov. [Phil] Murphy put a mask mandate into the buildings when it was going to expire here in New Jersey.

“I think if we can at least control the masks, the testing and some social distancing, we need to keep kids in school. We need not only to bring them back to school, but we need schools to remain open.”

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