First lady Jill Biden spoke to children at an elementary school in Connecticut on Wednesday with newly minted Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, saying that, as a teacher herself, she wants to return to the classroom — but only if teachers and students can do so safely.
“Teachers want to be back. We want to be back. Last week I said to my students, ‘Hey guys, how you doing?’ And they said, ‘Dr. B, we’re doing okay, but we can’t wait to be back to the classroom.’ And I think that’s how we all feel. But we just know that we have to get back safely,” Biden told the students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden.
“I think once we get our teachers vaccinated and the American Rescue Plan passed, schools like this will have the money to be back safely,” Biden said, referring to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan. “The biggest thing is we’re going to do this together.”
The stimulus package includes $130 billion for schools.
Cardona, who was sworn in earlier this week, also touted the need for widespread vaccinations of school staffs, saying they are a “top priority.”
“We must continue to reopen America’s schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible. The president recognizes this, which is why he took bold action yesterday to get teachers and school staff vaccinated quickly,” Cardona said.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also accompanied the first lady to the school.
“It’s great having a teacher in the White House,” Lamont said, adding that he knew the president was focused on the importance of reopening schools and noted that President Biden set a “goal line” of 100 days to do so.
Cardona, who was born in Meriden, said he was aware that in-person learning has started at some schools since mid-August, but remarked that “it was done in a manner that protected their students, the staff and their families.”
“It’s critical that we do it as safely as possible and as quickly as possible. The yearlong pandemic has led to fewer learning opportunities and more kids going hungry,” Cardona said. “Across the country, future Lin-Manuel Mirandas are sitting at home instead of going to drama club.”
President Biden, during an announcement at the White House Tuesday, said the US will have enough vaccines for every adult “by the end of May,” adding that it is “imperative that we get our kids back into the classroom safely and as soon as possible.”
“To help make this happen, starting next week and for a month — the month of March, we will be using our federal pharmacy program to prioritize the vaccination of pre-K-through-12 educators and staff and child-care workers. … Throughout March, they will be able to sign up for an appointment at a pharmacy near them,” the president said.