Students wash their hands at school in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Monday. All schools to reopened this week for students in grades five, 11 and 13 after being closed since March to help stop the spread of covid-19. President Trump said U.S. schools should open fully in the fall, and he threatened to take away money from school systems that don’t reopen. (Ishara S. Kodikara/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

President Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal money if schools don’t reopen in the fall, and he criticized federal health officials over school reopening guidelines that he says are impractical and expensive.

Taking to Twitter, Trump claimed that countries including Germany, Denmark and Norway have reopened schools “with no problems.” He also repeated his claim that Democrats want to keep schools closed for political reasons, not because of risks associated with the coronavirus.

Trump made the comments a day after launching an all-out effort pressing state and local officials to reopen the nation’s schools and colleges this fall. At a White House event on Tuesday, health and education officials argued that keeping students out of school this fall would pose greater health risks than any tied to the coronavirus.


Students sit in an elementary school classroom in Eichenau, Germany, on June 16. They are sitting at a distance from one another and attend school in smaller classes until the summer holidays. (Christof Stache/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Among those pushing for a fall reopening was the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Trump on Wednesday said the agency’s school guidelines are “very tough & expensive.”

“While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!” Trump wrote.

At the White House’s roundtable, the CDC’s director, Robert Redfield, emphasized that his agency’s guidelines are recommendations, and he urged schools to find ways to reopen while minimizing the spread of covid-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that students and teachers wear masks when feasible, spread out desks, stagger schedules, eat meals in classrooms and add barriers between bathroom sinks. Trump did not say which guidelines he opposed.

The president of the nation’s largest education union said Trump is more interested in scoring points for the November election than in keeping students safe.

“Trump has proven to be incapable of grasping that people are dying — that more than 130,000 Americans have already died,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. “Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms and on college campuses with our students, but we must do it in a way that keeps students, educators and communities safe.”

Health experts say making the issue political makes it harder to reopen schools. “It really distracts from what I think we need, which is real solutions and a plan in order to make this happen,” said Jennifer Nuzzo of Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 Testing Insights Initiative.