President Biden on Tuesday night distanced himself from previous comments by White House press secretary Jen Psaki that the administration’s goal for its first 100 days was to have more than 50% of schools open at least one day per week.
That goal was criticized as unambitious as it had essentially already been met by school districts partially opening on their own before Biden’s time in office. There was also speculation that the White House was trying to avoid upsetting teachers unions, which are a major force in the Democratic Party and have in many cases strongly opposed school reopening efforts.
But Biden at a CNN town hall Tuesday night said that Psaki was not correct in saying that having half of schools open one day per week — essentially getting schools 10% open overall — is the White House’s goal for the end of its first 100 days.
“No, that’s not true. That’s what was reported; that’s not true. There was a mistake in the communication,” he said. “But what I — what I’m talking about is I said opening the majority of schools in K-through-eighth grade because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be opened, in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home.”
“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first hundred days,” Biden said of elementary and middle schools.
Biden did not specifically say what his definition of an open K-8 school at the end of his first 100 days would be. But he did say that schools may be open over the summer to help make up for lost learning for students — a comment that also contradicted Psaki.
“My guess is they’re probably going to be pushing to open all summer to continue like it’s a different semester,” Biden said.
Psaki said in a White House briefing last week: “And you’re right: Schools won’t be in session for the summer, but this is a pandemic we’re working to get under control, making progress every month. And we’re certainly hopeful that things will be — more kids will be back in school five days a week as quickly as it can safely happen.”