Psaki doubles down on White House goal of more than 50% in-person school 1 day a week
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The White House has doubled down on its less-than-ambitious goal of having a majority of schools open for in-person classes one day per week by President Biden’s 100th day in office.
Press secretary Jen Psaki first announced the plan on Tuesday, after months of Biden promising to have schools open within 100 days, or by April 30. The administration had not previously specified how many days per week. The plan asks for a “majority” of schools to be open at least one day per week, meaning over 50%.
But according to Burbio’s school reopening tracker, that goal was reached months ago — about 64% of schools already offer some sort of in-person learning.
“Certainly, we are not planning to celebrate at 100 days if we reach that goal,” Psaki said Wednesday. “We certainly hope to build from that.”
“That is not the ceiling, that is the bar we are trying to leap over,” the press secretary added.
Psaki denied that a majority of schools are already reopened in some fashion. Burbio aggregates data from over 1,200 school districts throughout the country, including the 200 largest districts, in every state of the U.S. It measures traditional in-person, hybrid learning and virtual learning.
Biden has repeatedly called for “most schools” to reopen within 100 days of his presidency. In a meeting with 30 governors in December, Biden emphasized school reopenings as a key initial step in his incoming administration’s plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House has not yet laid out what criteria must be met to open schools safely, and the federal government can’t make that decision for schools. In a pre-Super Bowl Sunday interview, Biden said to expect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release “science-based” guidelines later this week on requirements for school reopenings – despite the agency having released guidelines back in September.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters last week, “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely. Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools.”
In recent weeks, the White House has argued that Congress must pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan to reopen schools safely.
“This COVID package, that is the top priority for him right now — things that Democrats and Republicans across the country support, 70% of the public supports them,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Thursday. “Are Republicans now against reopening schools?”
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Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief proposal includes $350 billion for state and local governments, to be divvied up between helping keep frontline workers employed and aid with vaccine distribution, COVID-19 testing, reopening schools, and “maintaining other vital services.”
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