U.S. Department of Education hosts national school reopening summit
Congress | Federal COVID-19
Date Posted: 3/24/2021 | Author: Jennifer Mitchell
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) hosted a National Safe School Reopening Summit Wednesday, March 24. The event was streamed live via YouTube and hosted by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. First Lady Jill Biden, also an educator, kicked off the event with a welcome message in which she highlighted the many challenges educators and students have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Featured presenters included Dr. Rochelle Wilensky, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Wilensky reviewed the latest CDC recommendations for health and safety practices in schools and then participated in Q&A with panels of school representatives serving in different roles. The panelists comprised school superintendents, teachers, facilities managers, school board members, students, and others from Ohio, New York, California, Oklahoma, Texas and other states. One of the participants who shared a prepared message during the event was Dr. Viola Garcia, a member of the board of trustees in Aldine ISD and president-elect of the National School Boards Association.
Much of the event's discussion focused on health-related strategies to prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19 in school settings. Many panelists recommended the continued use of masks, conducting activities outside or in well-ventilated areas, and accommodations to increase space, such as using signage to designate one-way hallways. The final panel, moderated by Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, addressed student academic success and what is needed to get students back on track while also addressing social and emotional learning needs and trauma.
Secretary Cardona announced in his closing remarks that ED will be launching a new "Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative," and the secretary will begin a national listening tour in schools. Cardona also praised the 45 states that have now prioritized educators for access to vaccines, allowing a half million vaccinations of educators in the past week alone.
The summit also featured pre-recorded messages from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris touted the federal funding available to schools through the recently enacted American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. President Biden's remarks closed out the event and included his noting that $81 billion of the $130 billion in school funding in the ARP Act would begin arriving in states today.
"We need states to move quickly to get these resources down to school districts and put them to work," Biden urged. The president's remarks align with calls from ATPE and others in the education community for Texas officials to distribute the federal funds to school districts right away.
Biden also mentioned the new collaborative, saying, "All children should have access to high qualiy summer learning and enrichment this summer and beyond." The national program is expected to launch next month.
Watch archived video of the National Safe School Reopening Summit here.
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