U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently wrote a letter to educators and parents regarding new Centers for Disease Control recommendations and the impact they would have on children with disabilities.
The letter addresses the needs of students with disabilities as the United States moves into a new phase in its response to the pandemic. The letter addresses the CDC’s February 2022 framework for identifying COVID-19 community levels and encourages schools to lead with equity and inclusion to ensure all students have access to in-person learning alongside their peers.
Cardona notes that today, more than 99% of all schools are fully open, up from about 46% in early 2021. He states, “We are now in a better position than ever before to fight COVID-19 – including to prevent medically significant illness, minimize the burden on our healthcare system, and protect individuals at increased risk for severe illness – including older adults, people with disabilities, people with medical conditions, and pregnant individuals – in our communities through vaccines, treatments, and layered prevention strategies.”
He goes on to state, “For nearly two years, educators and staff across the country have provided services and supports to students with disabilities in ways never anticipated prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Administration is committed to ensuring that students with disabilities continue to receive the services and supports they are entitled to so that they have successful educational experiences. As you know, CDC recognizes that COVID-19 poses a heightened risk of severe complications to many people with disabilities – including (but not limited to) those who are immunocompromised or with complex medical conditions. These students may need additional protections to ensure they can remain safe in the classroom.”
According to Cardona, extra precautions may be needed to protect students, friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. He adds that students are better able to engage with rigorous instruction and access services and supports tailored to their needs when they are learning alongside their peers. “The Biden-Harris Administration has made learning in person a top priority for all students, including students with disabilities,” he states. “As we learn to safely engage with our communities and navigate the current state of the pandemic, the Department will continue to provide guidance and resources to school communities to ensure we support the ability of students with disabilities to learn in person.”