Education Sec. Cardona: Nation’s Schools Fully Open by September

Education Sec. Cardona: Nation's Schools Fully Open by September (Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Thursday, 06 May 2021 03:09 PM

The nation's schools will most likely be open for full-time, in-person classes for all students by September, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona confirmed Thursday, while acknowledging he would rather have had children back in school this spring.

"Students don't learn as well remotely," Cardona told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "There is no substitute for in-person learning, and I'm pleased (that) we have 54% of our pre-K through 8th schools in class every day and bout 90% are offering in-person learning for students, but until we're at 100%, we must keep our foot on the gas pedal."

As for now, the administration is monitoring closely and using data systems to make sure that in places where in-person learning is not yet being offered or children are not back in school full time, the reasons are known, he added.

"We have a clearinghouse we released last week of hundreds of examples where it's working and strategies we can use," Cardona said. "We need to make sure we keep that level of urgency. Our kids can't wait, and the same is true for colleges."

Cardona said that he does expect blended learning or some form of remote learning to be the "new landscape," but that does not substitute for in-person classrooms, so 'we're pushing hard to make sure all students have an opportunity to get back in the classroom as soon as possible this spring."

Show co-anchor Willie Geist noted that some 3 million students nationally haven't been checking in for remote learning, and sometimes the schools don't know where those children are, and Cardona agreed that is an issue.

"We have to make sure we're using the American Rescue Plan funds to make sure we're doing more to outreach, to get folks out into the community, to reconnect those students and provide them not only the academic support they're going to need but that social/emotional embrace that our students will need to succeed," said Cardona.

Meanwhile, another proposed plan, Biden's American Family Plan, "proposes community school funds so we can make sure we're connecting our students into the classroom and our families back into the classroom where they belong," said Cardona.

Meanwhile, a one-size solution will not fit all the school districts in the country, particularly places that have old buildings with ventilation systems that have not been touched in years, said Cardona.

"In many places across the country, schools have been in session since August," he said. "My children have been in schools since August. There are examples where it's working…I want to make sure that this agency that I'm a part of is there on the ground supporting them, pushing. Our students need us more than ever now. We need them to be in the classroom."

It's difficult, though, to know if schools could have been open earlier, particularly now that it's known COVID-19 isn't transmitted on surfaces.

"We rely very heavily on CDC guidance," he said. "It's critically important that we're listening to our health experts because this is a health pandemic. In many cases, as we learn new information, plans change, and I've seen school systems change plans mid-course based on new data."