Ed Sec Cardona says students need in-person classes despite omicron: 'They’ve suffered enough'

The secretary pointed to the negative effects of remote learning as well as advances in fighting the pandemic

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Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stressed the need to keep schools open for in-person learning despite a surge in coronavirus cases brought on in significant part by the omicron variant.

Cardona's words during an interview with "Fox News Sunday," came as many schools across the country are set to be closed as winter break ends. According to the Burbio school tracker database, more than 2,100 schools will be closed this week, despite the government's position.

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"We’ve been very clear, our expectation is for schools to be open full-time for students for in-person learning," Cardona said. "We remember the impact of school closures on students last year."

Besides the negative impact of distance learning, Cardona pointed to advancements made in the fight against COVID-19, noting that "our science is better" and "we have better tools," such as $10 billion for surveillance testing provided by the American Rescue Plan and vaccinations that are available for children ages 5 and older.

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Cardona said that schools should have strategies in place for testing students who have symptoms, but American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten has said this may not be possible everywhere.

"I am concerned that lots of districts don’t have the infrastructure for testing and test to stay," Weingarten said according to the Washington Post. "It’s going to be really, really bumpy and there is going to need to be a lot of grace."

Cardona acknowledged that "there may be bumps in the road," but he was specifically addressing schools that may need to close temporarily due to staff shortages. 

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"But the goal is full-time, in-person learning for our students," he said. "They’ve suffered enough."

"We’re going to roll up our sleeves, all hands on deck," he added. "Let’s keep our children in the classroom. That should be our default thinking and as problems come up we need to come together to solve them."