President Biden said Tuesday he’s pushing for K-8 schools to reopen full-time by the end of his first 100 days in office, contradicting his confusing White House less ambitious benchmark in having only one day a week of in-person learning by saying they were inaccurate and stemmed from “a mistake in the communication.”
During his first presidential town hall hosted by CNN in Milwaukee, Biden was asked by host, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “your administration had set a goal to open the majority of schools in your first 100 days. You’re now saying that means those schools may only be open for at least one day a week.”
“No, that’s not true,” Biden responded when asked about his White House one-day-a-week benchmark. “That’s what was reported. It was a mistake in the communication.”
“But what I’m talking about is I said open a majority of schools in K through eighth grade because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be open in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home,” Biden added.
Cooper asked when does he think it will be possible to open five days a week.
“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days. We’ve had a significant percentage of them being able to be opened,” Biden said. “My guess is they’re going to probably be pushing to open all for all summer to continue like it’s a different semester.”
The CNN host pressed on, asking Biden again if he “think that would be five days a week or just couple” days.
“The goal will be five days a week,” Biden replied. “I think many of them are five days a week.”
However, Biden lowered its marker, saying his goal only applies to “a majority of K-8 schools,” claiming that it would be harder to open up high schools due to older students being able to transmit the disease more easily than young children.
The president also rebuffed a question regarding large class sizes with students together in packed classrooms in dated, poorly ventilated school buildings. He said schools should reopen with only proper social distancing and protective equipment, and pushed for teachers to get priority for coronavirus vaccine shots, although states are the ultimate decider if teachers are considered on the priority level to be inoculated.
The CDC on Friday released its long-awaited reopening school guidelines, clarifying that schools can safely reopen based on five key host of safety measures, including the usual maintaining 6 feet of social distancing where possible, mandating face masks, cleaning facilities, and contract tracing. It also stated that vaccinations shouldn’t be a precondition for reopening schools.
“Number one, nobody is suggesting, including the CDC in this recent out report, that you have large classes, congested classes. It’s smaller classes; more ventilation; making sure that everybody has masks and is socially distanced, meaning you have less, fewer students in one room,” Biden said. “So it’s about needing to be able to socially distance, smaller classes, more protection. And I think the teachers and the folks who work in the school, the cafeteria workers and others should be on the list of preferred to get a vaccination.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last Tuesday said that Biden’s goal is for more than 50% of schools to have “some teaching” in person “at least one day a week” by his first 100 days of his presidency.
“His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50% open by day 100 of his presidency,” Psaki said on Feb. 10 during a White House press briefing. “And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week. Hopefully, it’s more.”
Nearly a year since remote learning has replaced in-school learning and millions of children are still at home, with no expected return date for in-person classroom. Studies show children are falling behind at an alarming rate, with low-income or Black and Latino children are hurting the worst compared to others. With studies showing encouraging data on schools reopening, with low rates of Covid-19 infections, the biggest obstacle in reopening school stem from the teachers unions who are demanding unnecessary conditions, causing schools to remain shuttered.
The White House does not have a current count of schools operating in-person, fully remotely, or with a mix of online and in-person instruction. Officials pointed to an upcoming survey led by the U.S. Department of Education that will compile data and deliver a track report expected sometime next month.