Biden says goal is to reopen schools five days a week in first 100 days

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President Biden clarified Tuesday that his goal is to have the majority of K-8 schools physically reopened five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days,” Biden said during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee on Tuesday evening. “The goal will be five days a week.”

Biden disputed the notion that his goal was to have most schools open for at least one day of in-person learning each week, calling it a “mistake in the communication.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that Biden’s goal involved having more than 50 percent of schools holding at least one day of in-person learning per week by the end of his first 100 days. Psaki later said that Biden’s overall objective is to have schools open five days each week.

Biden suggested on Tuesday that schools may look to hold classes over the summer in order to catch up, after many students have spent the past year in virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My guess is they’re probably going to be pushing to open all summer,” Biden said.

Biden described the steps he believes are needed to bring students safely back to school: widespread use of protective gear such as masks and smaller pods in which students take class. He said it will be more difficult to reopen high schools because older students are more likely to socialize and transmit the virus.

Biden also said that he believes teachers should be moved up in priority to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

“I think we should be vaccinating teachers,” Biden said. “We should move them up in the hierarchy.”

Teachers in some areas have been given access to the vaccines, but the rules are different across states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week issued guidance recommending universal mask use by students, staff and teachers and proper social distancing of six feet in order to safely reopen. It cautions about reopening if there is high transmission of the coronavirus in the community in which the school is located. 

The guidance says that COVID-19 vaccination for teachers should be prioritized but not required to physically reopen schools. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said repeatedly that teachers do not need to be vaccinated in order for schools to safely reopen.

Still, teachers unions have been resistant to returning to in-person learning. The Biden administration has faced scrutiny from Republicans for not pushing more forcefully for schools to physically reopen, accusing Biden of being beholden to teachers unions.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Jen Psaki Joe Biden Rochelle Walensky school reopenings

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