Credit: The White House
President Joe Biden speaks at a press conference in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex on Jan. 25.

President Biden has issued an executive order and a detailed plan to encourage most K-8 schools to reopen for in-person instruction sometime within his first 100 days in office.  He addressed the issue on Jan. 25 in his first press conference since becoming president. Acknowledging the complexity of the issue and the need to ensure safety, his remarks contrasted significantly from former President Trump’s on the issue. Trump politicized the entire issue by arguing that Democrats wanted to keep schools closed as a way to hurt him in his reelection campaign. Biden’s remarks were in response to a question about the current conflict in Chicago between the school district and the teachers” union around school reopening, and to another question about what “unity” means to him. The following is a transcript of what he said:

I believe we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers, and for the help that’s in those schools maintaining the facilities. We need new ventilation system in those schools. We need testing for people coming in and out of the classes. We need testing for teachers as well as students. And we need the capacity to know that the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone. For example, there’s no reason why the clear guidance will be that every school should be thoroughly sanitized, from the lavatories to the hallways.  And so this is about making — and none of the school districts that I’m aware of—there may be some— have insisted that all those pieces are in place.

I might add this is the same kind of thing I hope we can do as small businesses and businesses, making sure they have the capacity to test their workers when they come in, to make sure they have the plastic dividers between their booths in their restaurants, to make sure they can sanitize, etc.

So it’s not so much about the idea of teachers aren’t going to work. The teachers I know, they want to work. They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that. And we should be able to open up every school, kindergarten through 8th grade, if in fact we administer these tests. It will have the added advantage of putting millions of people back to work—all those mothers and fathers that are home taking care of their children rather than go to work, even when they can work. They’re not able to do it unless they have the luxury of working at a distance like many of us do. They’re not able to do it. So this is about generating economic growth overall as well.

I’m confident they (a number of Republicans) know we have to do something about figuring out how to get children back in school. There are easy ways to deal with this.  If you are anti-union, you can say it is all because of teachers. If you want to make a case, though, that it is complicated, you will say “what do you have to do to make it safe to get kids in schools?”

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  1. Larry Erickson 3 months ago3 months ago

    As I am writing this my 8th grade daughter is online with her math class and the teacher has been explaining problems for over 30 minutes. As she has been doing remote learning since the second half of 7th grade, her grades are excellent; the key, as her history teacher, says - "You have to read the material." I am lucky to work 2 hours a week as a chauffeur, which is a very … Read More

    As I am writing this my 8th grade daughter is online with her math class and the teacher has been explaining problems for over 30 minutes. As she has been doing remote learning since the second half of 7th grade, her grades are excellent; the key, as her history teacher, says – “You have to read the material.” I am lucky to work 2 hours a week as a chauffeur, which is a very high risk profession and I earn less than $28K per year.

    Just last week we read in the news that 3 teachers from Cobb County Georgia had died from Covid-19. Another source stated that 4 teachers in Alabama died in the last month.

    When I first heard of this issue with the school district in Chicago pushing to re-open, I had to check who was running this show, Democrats or Republican reality deniers. Imagine my surprise to find out that it is Democrats now doing the push to re-open just like their less informed and science denying counterparts in Republican-controlled states!

    So my question is why are some Democrats doing the exact same stupid things during a raging pandemic that is nowhere near under control, with teachers contracting and dying from this disease?

    I see no difference between Trump pushing for school opening a few months ago and Lightfoot doing it now! What is equally amazing is that no one seems to be asking these hard questions and most opinion like this one want to blame teachers for not taking the risk.

    Another over looked issue is the very real small number of children who do contract Covid-19 and get very ill and have serious inflammation with many dying. So again, what is going on with these Democrats who should know better and why are they following in the path of the Republican reality deniers?