U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona discusses the push to keep schools open : NPR

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NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with Schooling Secretary Miguel Cardona concerning the omicron surge and the administration’s push to maintain colleges open.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Will faculty be open tomorrow? Ought to faculty be open tomorrow? And if faculty is open, will there be sufficient bus drivers to get youngsters there and sufficient academics in entrance of the classroom? That is the third calendar yr of the pandemic, and the omicron wave has as soon as once more pressured faculty programs to rethink tips on how to stay and educate with COVID. To speak about that, we’re joined now by the U.S. secretary of schooling, Miguel Cardona. Welcome.
MIGUEL CARDONA: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
CHANG: So I need to ask about whether or not we’re at a pivot level right here as a result of omicron is so widespread now and excessive percentages of academics are certainly vaccinated. Is it time now to acknowledge that children are going to get COVID at school? Like, ought to the dialog shift in direction of managing COVID slightly than hoping for zero COVID at college? What do you suppose?
CARDONA: We won’t take a look at our method right this moment the identical means we did in March of 2020.
CHANG: Proper.
CARDONA: We now have higher instruments now. Youngsters ages 5 and up are eligible for vaccine. And we noticed the affect that college students had studying remotely or not with the ability to attend faculty. We are able to do higher. We now have the instruments out there; the sources are there. And sure, it is a problem, and I’ve to commend educators and leaders throughout the nation. However we – our college students deserve the chance to be taught in particular person, and we’ve got the instruments to maintain our colleges secure for in-person studying for our college students…
CHANG: Proper…
CARDONA: …And for our staffs.
CHANG: And I do know that you’re pushing for in-person studying. However once more, ought to the dialog shift away from making an attempt to get zero COVID at college or making an attempt to handle COVID infections that may inevitably happen amongst college students?
CARDONA: I consider – what we have identified from the start is that COVID usually does not unfold in our colleges. It spreads in our neighborhood and it comes into our colleges. So I agree that we should proceed the dialog about tips on how to hold our colleges open, managing COVID and never permitting it to disrupt our colleges, and understanding that we’ve got to – our default must be that our college students belong within the classroom. And I believe we are able to try this, and I believe we’ve got higher instruments – as I mentioned – and we needs to be eager about methods to maintain it from spreading in our colleges however recognizing that we won’t look forward to this to cross for us to get our youngsters within the school rooms.
CHANG: All proper. Nicely, let’s discuss tips on how to hold colleges secure proper now for in-person studying. I imply, colleges are saying they merely do not have sufficient sources. They do not have sufficient assessments. They do not have sufficient employees. How do you intend to resolve these shortages proper now, these actually compelling shortages?
CARDONA: You realize, as a former educator, a constructing principal, I acknowledge the challenges that our educators are going through throughout the nation, and I acknowledge that it is robust. However we do have better sources than ever earlier than. You realize, the American Rescue Plan supplied $130 billion, and people funds might be used to rent extra employees, to incentivize bus drivers to come back again into the occupation in the event that they’ve left it or educators…
CHANG: That takes numerous time, proper? I imply, what recommendation do you’ve for district leaders who do not have sufficient bus drivers now, who do not have sufficient adults now to show class? They want extra people now, no more cash. They want the people now.
CARDONA: Nicely, what we have seen from the start is districts throughout the nation have good testing protocols. They do have technique to have extra extra employees members of their buildings. And I believe what we’re seeing right this moment, yesterday, is as folks come again from their holidays or from their breaks, they’re discovering that they’ve COVID. I do anticipate that, with the usage of mitigation methods, we will have our employees in, and I am actually happy that the brand new steerage with – from CDC prevents a lot quarantining once we know it isn’t vital to soundly reopen our colleges. So I anticipate that that is going to enhance our skill to employees our colleges.
CHANG: Nicely, let’s speak concerning the season we’re in proper now – winter. It poses an enormous problem in lots of elements of the nation, clearly due to lunch. It may be actually very difficult to eat exterior in lots of areas on this nation. Air flow is difficult inside. What’s your recommendation there?
CARDONA: My recommendation can be the identical – what I’ve seen since March 2020 – utilizing our area in a different way in our colleges, guaranteeing enough spacing between college students, utilizing constructing areas in a different way – cafeterias, media facilities, school rooms. It is not perfect. I acknowledge it isn’t perfect. However the various is having college students studying from dwelling, perhaps not accessing web – good web entry, not getting access to meals in some circumstances. We are able to do it. It is not perfect, however we are able to do it. There are better sources to get it completed. And I’ve seen nice examples throughout the nation of the place it may be completed. Ninety-nine p.c of our college students throughout the nation have entry to in-person studying regardless of this omicron uptick. We now have to remain targeted. We now have to present these college students the chance to remain studying within the classroom.
CHANG: I’m curious – you mentioned you have seen nice examples. Are you able to level to states or districts that you simply suppose are managing the present state of affairs very effectively in the mean time? What are they doing proper particularly, and the place?
CARDONA: Nicely, you realize, I might prefer to raise up what I heard from the commissioner of schooling right this moment from Vermont. Sixty p.c of the scholars have been vaccinated. That implies that, you realize, it was all palms on deck. They’re effectively above the common, and what they’ve completed is absolutely accomplice with communities, with native management, state management to get vaccines within the arms of scholars to guard them and the communities. And what meaning is that they don’t seem to be going to be counting on assessments to maintain youngsters at school as a result of we all know that if college students are uncovered to COVID-19, they’ve a five-day quarantine, then they will return. So it is methods like that that I might prefer to raise.
In Tennessee, they’re doing an ideal job recruiting and getting extra employees members within the colleges to have extra human useful resource capital to permit for colleges to remain open. There are nice examples on the market. I am certain each state has particular examples of what they’re doing very well. And I – you realize, this is a chance for us to take a look at the sources that we’ve got from the federal authorities, from the state authorities, be revolutionary and actually work in partnership with our neighborhood companions and our households – who’ve additionally needed to undergo so much due to their schedule modifications – to essentially give our youngsters the very best alternative to be taught within the classroom.
CHANG: Nicely, within the 30 seconds or so we’ve got left, for those who might converse straight to oldsters who’re questioning proper now whether or not it’s secure to ship their youngsters to high school, what questions do you suppose they need to be asking their district leaders?
CARDONA: Nicely, I am a mother or father additionally, so I will put my mother or father hat on, and I will say to them what I do know to be true. If our colleges are following the mitigation methods that they are alleged to be following, if I’ve given my kids a possibility to get vaccinated, and if I speak to them overtly concerning the significance of defending themselves and others, they will have the very best alternative to achieve the classroom, and so they can do it safely.
CHANG: That’s the U.S. secretary of schooling, Miguel Cardona. Thanks very a lot for becoming a member of us right this moment.
CARDONA: All proper, thanks.
(SOUNDBITE OF RIVAL CONSOLES’ “THEM IS US”)

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