President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, to announce his health care team. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden vows to reopen most schools after 1st 100 days on job

Biden vows to reopen most schools after 1st 100 days on job

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden pledged Tuesday to bring the coronavirus pandemic under enough control to open most of the nation’s schools during his first 100 days as president — going much further on the issue than he has in the past, even while warning that the U.S. is facing a “dark winter.”

The president-elect said that promise is dependent on Congress providing sufficient funding to protect returning students, teachers and campus staff. He made it during an event in Delaware to introduce a team of health experts set to help the new administration combat a virus that has already killed more than 285,000 Americans.

The first coronavirus vaccine, from drugmaker Pfizer, is expected to be endorsed by a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers as soon as this week, with delivery of 100 million doses — enough for 50 million Americans — expected in coming months.

Biden said he’d call for all Americans to wear masks for 100 days and would distribute at least 100 million vaccines during his first 100 days in the White House, in addition to seeking to reopen most of the nation’s schools over the same period.

“It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school,” Biden said. “If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”

There were 130,930 K-12 schools in the U.S. in the 2017-18 school year, according to the latest data from the Education Department. At least half of those would have to resume in-person learning by the end of April for Biden to make good on his pledge, assuming sufficient funding is approved.

Biden provided few details on how he will achieve that goal except to say that officials will prioritize getting vaccines to educators “as soon as possible” after health care personnel and people in long-term care facilities have gotten them.

While still a candidate, Biden released a plan in July for resuming in-person classroom instruction during the pandemic that promised to send Congress an emergency funding package to help schools reopen with a price tag worth up to $30 billion.

That plan said final decisions on reopening schools would fall to state and local officials but nonetheless promised to enlist federal agencies to establish “basic, objective criteria” for doing so. Those included districts securing necessary funding to reconfigure classrooms for better social distancing, procuring protective equipment and devising plans to accommodate at-risk teachers and students.

Biden’s comments won praise from the nation’s two major teachers unions. Much of what he’s proposed aligns with an approach previously offered by the American Federation of Teachers, which has called for a national mask mandate, wider virus testing and funding to make buildings safer.

“All I can say is hallelujah,” said Randi Weingarten, the union’s president. “We finally have a president-elect who understands that we need resources and strong public health measures in order to reopen school buildings.”

With proper funding and strong public health measures, it would be “reasonable” to reopen schools within 100 days, Weingarten said, although students would still need to be spaced apart in classrooms until a vaccine is widely distributed.

The national superintendents association, known as AASA, welcomed Biden’s plan but said it hinges on his ability to secure funding from Congress.

“It’s a great idea and I very much support it, but the conditions that were made are absolutely essential, No. 1 being funding,” executive director Dan Domenech said. “We’ve been asking for that money for the entire year, and it hasn’t come forth.”

Meanwhile, the task of reopening schools has continued to become more difficult as the virus continues to spread, Domenech said. As cases climb across the country, most of the nation’s schools are operating online, he said, with only a third offering classes in-person.

Indeed, Biden’s schools pledge was an optimistic note in a speech that otherwise included a lot of dire warnings. The president-elect said that, after nearly nine months of living with the pandemic, Americans are “at risk of becoming numb to its toll on us” and resigned to accepting “the death, the pain and the sorrow.”

“We’re in a very dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better,” Biden said. “A vaccine may soon be available. We need to level with one another. It will take longer than we would like to distribute it to all corners of the country.” ___

Associated Press writer Collin Binkley contributed to this report from Boston.

Will Weissert, The Associated Press

Joe Biden

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Most Read