Politics & Policy

Biden Says Goal to Open Schools One Day a Week Was Communication ‘Mistake’

President Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 26, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden on Tuesday walked back his administration’s goal to open the majority of schools one day a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, calling the underwhelming target “a mistake in the communication.”

Speaking at a town hall at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee Tuesday evening, Biden said he expects in-person classes for students in kindergarten through middle school to resume soon.

“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days. We have had a significant percentage of them being able to be opened,” Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Pressed for details on what “open” meant, Biden responded, “I think many of them five days a week. The goal will be five days a week.”

The president’s remarks contradicted the low bar set by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who said the majority of schools would open for “at least one day a week” by the end of Biden’s first 100 days in office.

After Biden corrected her during his town hall she attempted to clarify the administration’s goals for reopening public schools on Twitter.

“Last week I said @POTUS goal was to open schools five days a week as quickly as possible. And that we are going to rely on science. Which is exactly what we are doing,” Psaki wrote in a tweet.

Last week, the CDC released guidance for schools on how to resume in-person learning. Middle schools are directed to reopen as soon as they can ensure mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand washing. High schools may do the same unless they are in a community with the highest level of virus transmission.

However, teachers unions across the country, particularly in major cities, have remained reluctant to return to the classroom, insisting that not enough safety precautions are being taken by school districts to prevent infections.

Biden promised in December to reopen the majority of schools by the end of his first 100 days in office, but he pointed to Congress passing a coronavirus relief bill as the key to accomplishing that.

“If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators and staff,” Biden said at the time. “If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that a majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.”

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