Feb 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden on school closures: "It is a national emergency"

Joe Biden stands in front of a presidential seal
Biden steps off Air Force One in New Castle, Delaware on Feb. 5. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

School closures across the country and a lack of in-person learning due to the coronavirus is "a national emergency," President Biden stressed in a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS on Sunday.

Why it matters: Schools' handling of the pandemic reportedly vary wildly from district to district, and one nonprofit study from October estimates that as many as 3 million U.S. students have gone without any formal education — virtual or in-person — since March.

Where it stands: Biden has pledged to reopen schools within his first 100 days, but Anthony Fauci — Biden's chief medical adviser — recently told teachers unions that the administration's goal may not be reached that quickly due to "mitigating circumstances."

What he's saying: "It is a national emergency. It genuinely is a national emergency," Biden said. "I think it's time for schools to reopen safely. Safely. You have to have fewer people in the classroom, you have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked."

  • "Our CDC commissioner is going to be coming out with science-based judgement within, I think as early as Wednesday, to lay out what the minimum requirements are."
  • "I think about the price. So many of my grandkids and your kids are going to pay for not having had the chance to finish whatever it was. That graduation, where you didn't get to walk across the stage — I think they're going through a lot, these kids."

The bottom line: "Currently, there is not enough data to understand the status of school re-opening and how students are learning nationwide," the Department of Education said on Friday.

Go deeper: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

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