MERIDEN, Connecticut (AP) – White House teacher Jill Biden along with new Education Secretary Miguel Cardona returned to school on Wednesday to publicly show to districts that have yet to transition towards in-person learning. can be done safely during the pandemic.
“The teachers want to be back,” the first lady said after she and Cardona spent about an hour touring classrooms and other areas of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut. “We want to be back. I’m a teacher. I’m a virtual teacher.”
Biden is a former community college English teacher who now teaches remotely from the White House. She said her students recently told her they can’t wait to be back in class.
“But we just know we have to get home safe and sound,” she said.
The trip was the first thing for Cardona, the former education commissioner of Connecticut, who was only sworn in the day before in his new Cabinet post.
Biden and Cardona were also visiting a college in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Their visits came as time is running out on President Joe Biden’s pledge to open most K-8 schools for classroom instruction by the end of his first 100 days in office, or the end of April.
To help get things done, Biden said on Tuesday he was pushing states to administer at least one coronavirus vaccine to every teacher, school worker and childcare worker by the end of March. .
The issue of teacher immunizations has become a critical issue in school districts across the country, as many teachers stood in line and refused to return to their classrooms unless they received the vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not including teacher vaccination in its guidelines for schools when it reopens after months of distance teaching students on computers.
“We need to continue to reopen American schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible,” Cardona said. He said the president’s directive that teachers and school staff be vaccinated quickly will be “my top priority.”
At Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Biden and Cardona saw children sitting some distance from each other at individual desks, each wearing a mask. Transparent plastic partitions separated groups of four students seated at half-moon shaped tables. Hand sanitizer dispensers were available in the hallways.
“I love it,” Biden said after a teacher pointed to the sheet music. The teacher also said her children had “no problem” wearing the masks.
The school reopened at the end of August, Cardona said, and “it was done in a way that protects the students and their families.”
The First Lady and Cardona also visited a ‘sensory room’ with colorful climbing walls, zip lines, monkey bars, stability balls and a mat, where students with special needs can collect their emotions.
Biden asked the teacher in the sensory room if she had noticed an increase in anxiety in children due to the pandemic. The teacher said yes.
Biden and Cardona later listened to another teacher describe her transition to in-person learning.
The school visit also served as a homecoming for Cardona, who is from Meriden and was greeted so warmly that Biden called the welcome a “feast of love.” Her parents were among those in the school hall for remarks.
“Now our nation is going to have this love for you,” she said.
“The three favorite words of educators are not ‘I love you’,” she joked. “This will be the Cardona Education Secretary.”