Noem: South Dakota students 'will definitely be in the classroom' this fall

South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemTrump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Thousands of bikers pour into South Dakota for motorcycle rally Governors' approval ratings drop as COVID-19 cases mount MORE (R) said students in her state will “definitely” be in the classroom this fall amid a national debate over reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Well, for us, our kids are going back to school on time,” Noem said Wednesday on “Fox & Friends” when asked when she would make a decision on reopening schools. 

“They will definitely be in the classroom,” she doubled down when asked to clarify. 

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Noem maintained the risk of transmitting the coronavirus among children remains low and that accommodations will be made for teachers who are older or have preexisting medical conditions. 

The governor also said returning children to school after months of virtual learning is particularly important, citing statistics showing students do not get the most out of their education if they’re not physically in schools. 

“We have proven that distance learning is not as effective as being in the classroom. We think that kids have only achieved about 70 percent of the learning that they could have, had they been in school,” she said. 

“And then also, we have a lot of kids that don’t have a stable home environment. They don’t have parents that are really being responsible to make sure that they're learning. Those are the kids that are getting hurt the most. And in South Dakota, in some districts, it's up to 30 percent of the children.

The remarks come amid a national debate over how to safely return students to schools this fall while minimizing the risks of spreading the coronavirus.

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Republicans, led by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE, have made reopening schools a top priority, with Trump even at one point threatening to withhold federal funds from schools that don’t reopen. Democrats, meanwhile, have urged a more cautious approach, warning that returning to schools is not safe for both students and teachers, particularly as several states see alarming spikes in coronavirus cases. 

Noem on Tuesday unveiled a plan to provide $47 million in state and federal funding to schools in the state to help them reopen, with more money possibly on the way, and said she does not think schools would be closed again in the case of a resurgence. 

"This is a virus that we've said for months is going to spread across the state of South Dakota," Noem said Tuesday at a press conference. "We will continue to see increased positive cases. We're going to go up and down and get through this, and we just need to make good decisions to help us get through it in the best way possible." 

There have been 123 coronavirus-linked deaths in South Dakota since the pandemic began.