Politics

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Biden Pledges To Reopen Most Schools During First 100 Days In Office

"It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school," the president-elect said.

While introducing the team of public health experts he'd tapped to aid his incoming administration in combating the coronavirus pandemic, President-elect Joe Biden vowed to reopen most schools to in-person learning during his first 100 days in office. But Biden stressed students' return to the classroom would only be possible with help from Congress, noting the legislature would need to provide the necessary funding to protect teachers, students, and school staff.

"It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school," the Associated Press reported Biden said while speaking in Delaware on Tuesday. "If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators, and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days."

Although Biden did not go into great detail regarding how his administration planned to make students' return to the classroom safe, Politico reported he said adequate funding would be vital for school districts to be able to implement recommended COVID safety measures like improving ventilation in buildings and hiring additional staff so students can be grouped in smaller classes. According to CNN, Biden also said his administration would work to ensure educators were given access to a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible and sign a mandate requiring masks be worn in all federal buildings and for interstate travel all planes, trains, and buses.

"My first 100 days won't end the COVID-19 virus. I can't promise that," CNN reported Biden said Tuesday. "But we did not get in this mess quickly, [and] we're not going to get out of it quickly. It's going to take some time. But I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."

On Twitter, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten applauded the president-elect's comments on reopening schools. "With proper funding and strong public health measures, it's reasonable to open schools and I'm so glad that we have a President-elect who understands that," Weingarten tweeted. "Unlike Trump, President-Elect Biden gets what we need to reopen schools safely. If we get the resources and the public health safeguards we can open schools safely."

But other education groups were hesitant to celebrate something that depended on Congress approving funding. “It’s a great idea and I very much support it, but the conditions that were made are absolutely essential, No. 1 being funding,” Dan Domenech, executive director of The American Association of School Administrators (AASA), told the Associated Press. “We’ve been asking for that money for the entire year, and it hasn’t come forth.”

Of course, this isn't the first time Biden has spoken about the importance of reopening schools for in-person learning. In July, while still just a presidential candidate, Biden released a roadmap for reopening schools safely. It called first for a nationwide testing-and-tracing strategy to get the novel coronavirus under control and then providing schools and child care centers with emergency funding.

Still, safely reopening the majority of the nation's schools within his first 100 days in office is a big undertaking and it will be interesting to see if Biden is able to pull it off.