The president of the largest US teachers union has said they “double-dog dare” Donald Trump to sit in one of their classrooms during the pandemic when schools reopen.
Mr Trump has demanded that schools resume in-person classes in fall, and has also criticised the Centre for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines for re-opening as “expensive” and “tough”.
“There’s no one that wants their kids back with us more than teachers... but we want to open it safely,” National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen García told CNN on Wednesday.
“We see what happens when they let bars open prematurely,” she added, referencing a number of states that have seen a surge in cases after re-opening their economies early on.
“This isn’t a bar. We’re talking about second graders. I had 39 sixth graders one year in my class. I double-dog dare Donald Trump to sit in a class of 39 sixth graders and breathe that air without any preparation for how we’re going to bring our kids back safely,” she said.
The NEA has insisted on a number of benchmarks before schools can re-open safely including personal protective equipment, deep-cleaning procedures that meet CDC standards, classroom layouts allowing six feet of distancing alongside hand-washing and sanitising stations.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump threatened to cut federal funding for districts ignoring his demand after suggesting that strict guidelines could lead some officials to decide to continue teaching an online-only curriculum by fall.
“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if US schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”
The president has made it clear that he disapproves of the CDC’s new guidelines which aim to keep children safe through social distancing, cloth face coverings, the closing of communal areas like dining rooms and playgrounds, and possible implementation of hygienic barriers.
“I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” he tweeted on Wednesday morning.
Ms Garcia suggested that the “expensive” measures should be funded with the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by house democrats in May that has not yet been considered by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The US has over three million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and has seen 132,723 deaths as of Thursday, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.