Education Secretary Cardona says expanding testing, vaccines will help keep schools open

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Wednesday that making sure educators are vaccinated is the top priority to keep schools open for children and teens.

“We’ve seen examples where schools can open safely and be effective, but we know that prioritizing vaccinations will only assist with that,” Cardona said in an interview with NBC Nightly News’ Lester Holt.

“My experience was when schools had to close, it wasn’t because Covid spread within the schools. It was because we had to quarantine educators. We had to quarantine teachers,” he said. “Having the vaccination will help keep those doors open. Not only about opening schools, it’s really about making sure they stay open.”

The administration has spent the past week touting its $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which allocates $122 billion for the nation’s public schools to reopen safely as testing capabilities and vaccine availability expands.

At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Cardona told reporters that expanding coronavirus testing for teachers, staff and students and organizing a virtual summit for educators to share “best practices” is part of the administration’s push to keep schools open.

“Our students have shown a level of resilience that is impressive. It’s inspiring. And we need to respond by reopening our schools safely,” he said. “But when we do that, we need to make sure that through this American Rescue Plan, we utilize those resources to provide intervention and support, not only with the academic but almost more importantly the social and emotional needs that our students are going to come to school with.”

“We’ve all experienced trauma together,” Cardona said. “We’re all getting through this pandemic and we need to make sure our schools are better prepared than ever before to meet their social and emotional needs.”

Cardona said that his department will work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to adapt coronavirus guidelines to best assist schools.

“If changes do come, we’re going to be ready to adjust and make sure that we’re doing as much as possible to safely reopen schools and get as many students as possible into the classroom this spring,” he said.

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