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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday it was understandable for parents to be dissatisfied with President Biden’s goal of reopening half of schools just one day a week by late April.
A journalist asked Psaki at a White House briefing “why should they be satisfied with that” goal after a full year of educational interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t be as a parent, and I am a parent, I should say, I have two young kids, and I know many of you have kids as well,” Psaki replied.
“The president wants schools to open safely and in accord with science. And we are going to listen to science and medical experts — the CDC guidelines, we expect them to come out tomorrow. We are eager to hear more about the clear science-based guidelines for opening schools and how we can do that safely and how we can keep them open. The president will not rest until every school is open five days a week. That is our goal.”
At a Wednesday briefing, Psaki startled parents by defending the seemingly unambitious goal of very limited reopenings within 100 days. Teachers unions across the country are resisting plans to reopen, arguing that teachers could be put at risk.
Psaki said Wednesday, “His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools — so, more than 50 percent — open by day 100 of his presidency. And that means some teaching in classrooms. So, at least one day a week. Hopefully, it’s more. And obviously, it is as much as is safe in each school and local district.”
Biden’s CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last week said schools can safely reopen even without teacher vaccination. But Psaki dismissed Walensky’s assertion, saying she was speaking only in her “personal capacity.”
Preliminary research found low rates of virus transmission within schools.
Psaki said Thursday that “we are leaning into science, we are letting the science and medical experts lead, and then his objective is to ensure there is the funding to deliver on that.”
She added “that’s in the American Rescue Plan,” referring to Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan being rammed through Congress without Republican support. A final bill is expected to reach Biden’s desk in late February or early March.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that billions of dollars are currently available to reopen schools, but that the funds have not been dispersed.
“Just six weeks ago, Congress sent another huge sum to help schools. It brought the total for K-12 to about $68 billion. As of the latest update, only $4 billion of the 68 had been spent. Ninety-four percent of the K-12 funding we have already provided is still in the pipeline,” McConnell said.
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