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Lesson Plans

Juliette Kayyem answers your questions on school reopenings

July 31, 2020

Full Lesson

Juliette Kayyem, former asst. secretary of Homeland Security


UPDATE, Dec. 2020: We wanted to resurface this clip with Prof. Kayyem recorded in late July.

“You don’t just need a plan to open up,” says Kayyem, “You need a plan when you start to see cases,” on her role advising schools over summer, importance of communication and digital divide.

by Carolyn McCusker

As we’ve heard consistently throughout our Summer Teacher Zoom Series, educators and community members alike have many questions about school reopenings. We reached out to teachers, students and parents to compile some of the most pressing questions on people’s minds as we approach this nebulous school year. We received dozens of questions and concerns, and distilled them to the 10 questions below.

Juliette Kayyem is a national security expert — former assistant secretary for homeland security under President Barack Obama, current professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of “Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting our Homeland and Your Home.”

She’s also the author of an Atlantic article titled, “Reopening Schools was Just an Afterthought,” and she’s serving on a consulting team advising the State of Massachusetts on its school reentry plans.

Kayyem’s candor and can-do attitude are helpful in both addressing logistical concerns and suggesting big-picture mindset shifts. Here’s Kayyem’s response to our opening question:

Watch the full video below for Kayyem’s responses to your questions, including (but not limited to):

  • What’s a good metric to use to decide if school is a safe environment for my daughter and her peers? — Jennifer Collins, a parent in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Can schools be held accountable for putting teachers and students in unsafe conditions? Can they make teachers sign health waivers? — Katrina Campbell, a teacher in San Diego, Calif.
  • What is your take on older school buildings with poor ventilation or little to no central HVAC? — Aman Hiregoudar, a student in Waltham, Mass.

Carolyn McCusker is NewsHour EXTRA’s intern. She’s a senior English major at Amherst College with an interest in audio storytelling. Before coming to NewsHour EXTRA, she worked at Connecticut Public Radio, New England Public Radio and tutored for Reader to Reader.


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