WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday said he “wouldn’t hesitate” to send his own children back to the classroom if they were still school-aged, despite the rise in coronavirus cases in many parts of the country, including in South Carolina where he was speaking.
“We know to open up America again we need to open up America’s schools, but it’s also right on the facts,” Pence said during a discussion with state leaders about reopening.
Pence said the risk to children of getting COVID-19 is low while there are “real costs” to students not being in the classroom.
The Pences have three adult children.
Second lady Karen Pence, a part-time art teacher who participated in Tuesday’s event, indicated that she is returning to in-person teaching.
Rather than teaching in her own classroom at a Christian elementary school in Virginia, however, Karen Pence said she will be moving “with a cart, from room to room, because it’s going to keep the kids safer. “
“They have their own supplies. I don’t set out supplies this year,” she said. “So there are ways that we can make it safe for our kids.”
The Trump administration has been pushing hard for schools to reopen and President Donald Trump has complained that guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “very tough and expensive.”
After Trump’s criticism earlier this month, Pence said the CDC would be putting out additional guidance. The update was expected last week.
On Tuesday, Pence said it “will be forthcoming in the days ahead.”
He was asked at the news conference if the White House task force has discussed what schools should do if a student or teacher dies from COVID-19.
“We’re supporting efforts at the state level, and with local schools, to do everything in our power to see that that never happens,” Pence said. “We think we can safely reopen schools.”
Pence praised South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, saying he was “100% right in making the decision to get our kids back in the classroom here in South Carolina.”
McMaster has called on state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman to reject any local plans that do not include in-person learning, bucking the state Department of Education’s earlier guidance.
The recommendation faced immediate backlash from school leaders and teacher organizations across the state, including the Greenville County Schools, the largest district in South Carolina.
A protester was shouting about public schools as the vice president’s entourage left the University of South Carolina Tuesday.
House Democrats last week complained that the administration would not allow CDC officials to testify at a public hearing to “provide greater clarity” on how schools can be safely reopened.
Instead, at the hearing being held Thursday by the House Education and Labor Committee, lawmakers will hear from a superintendent from Dallas, the president of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases.
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Contributing: Carol Motsinger and Ariel Gilreath, Greenville News.
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