Educators want clarity over White House guidance to make teachers critical infrastructure workers

With the coronavirus still spreading as some local schools reopen, President Donald Trump's administration now wants to classify teachers as critical infrastructure workers.

This means they'd be exempt from quarantine regulations. But it will ultimately be up to the states, such as Georgia, to decide.

Last month, Trump spoke one on one with Channel 2′s Richard Elliot about how important it was to him to reopen schools.

“We want the schools open, and Georgia’s been a great example of a state that’s done it all right,” Trump said.

He told Elliot then that he felt opening up schools was critical to reopening the economy.

Now, his administration is sending out new guidance asking that teachers be classified as critical infrastructure workers, which could mean they’d be exempt from quarantine regulations if they were exposed to the coronavirus and could go back into the classrooms to teach.

“We all agree that educators are essential and that public education is essential to our state,” said Georgia Association of Educators President Lisa Morgan.

She said that since COVID-19 numbers remain high in the state, she thinks those guidelines are a terrible idea for teachers.

“I think it shows a disregard for the health and well-being of educators, our students and our families,” Morgan said.

But these are only guidelines, and Georgia will make the ultimate decision.

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Gov. Brian Kemp’s office issued a statement Thursday, saying there are some school districts asking the state to adopt the guidelines:

“The governor’s office has received this request from several superintendents. Right now, we are soliciting input from various stakeholders, including teachers, parents and school leaders. The Department of Public Health is actively involved in those discussions. No decision has been made.”

In an interview Wednesday, Kemp told Channel 2 anchor Justin Farmer that he feels it is important to open up schools but wants teachers to be safe, too.

“I think most of the superintendents have been working with their teachers to make sure, you know, obviously that they can try to get them back in the classroom if they’re open and in person. I’m sure, if they’re part of the medically fragile population, they’ve got to be weighing that as well,” Kemp said.

Again, these are only recommendations. The White House is hoping the states will go along with the guidelines, but the ultimate decision will be made by the states.

Georgia has adopted only some of the guidelines in the past. That’s why the governor’s office states it wants input from all the stakeholders before it makes its decision — and that decision could be a while away.

Kemp said he’s concerned about teachers’ safety and is even cautioning his own daughters to practice social distancing to keep their teachers safe.

But he said reopening the schools is critical to reopening Georgia’s economy, so he has a lot to consider.