Noem made the comment one day after she said at a news conference at John Harris Elementary in Sioux Falls that she will push for schools to stay open this fall in the state that never implemented stay-at-home orders, emphasizing the educational and social benefits of a return to in-person learning, the Billings Gazette reported.
On Wednesday, Noem reiterated that sentiment speaking on “Fox & Friends,” saying that students will “definitely be in the classroom” in the fall.
“We have proven that distance learning is not as effective as being in the classroom,” Noem said. “We think that kids have only achieved about 70 percent of the learning that they could have had they been in school.”
She went on to say that “we have a lot of kids that don't have a stable home environment, they don't have parents that are really being responsible to make sure that they're learning.”
“Those are the kids that are getting hurt the most,” Noem said, adding that “in South Dakota, in some districts, it's up to 30 percent of the children.”
“So they need to be there in the classroom where these teachers and administrators can see how they are doing, look at them, give them a hot meal, make sure that we're taking care of them and then make sure that every single child at this important time in their life that they have the opportunity to learn so they can be successful for the rest of their life,” she continued.
Regarding teachers, some of which are considered the most vulnerable population as it pertains to COVID-19, Noem said: “There’s accommodations that can be made” for those who are older or have underlying health conditions.
Noem also said that in South Dakota children will not be required to wear masks in the classroom because it is not practical and could even lead to infections spreading more frequently.
“As far as masks, I'm not mandating any masks at the state level,” Noem told “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday. “It certainly would be challenging for a child to keep a mask on for seven, eight hours a day.”
She added that children are “constantly touching” their masks, “taking it off” and “dropping it on the floor.”
“Those all increase rates of infection,” Noem said.
“I think that every school district is approaching it differently and telling parents if your children want to wear masks they can, but we are not going to make them,” she added.
Noem’s position on masks defies a push from the South Dakota State Medical Association to require students to wear face masks in schools, according to the Billings Gazette.
Noem said on Wednesday that she believes it “is safer for our kids to be in classrooms, for these teachers than being in Walmart, than being in a pharmacy or grocery store.”
She went on to say that classrooms will be a “safe” “environment” for students.
“We’ll take good care of them,” Noem said.