Sunday, July 12, 2020
CNN's Dana Bash interviewed United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Sunday's State of Union. Bash pushed multiple times to get DeVos to answer specific questions about the plan to have schools fully reopen. Bash showed a clip to DeVos where Fairfax County, Virginia's school superintendent explained that social distancing with 200,000 students in the existing building space is simply not possible. "We're the size of five Pentagons," said Scott Brabrand, Superintendent, Fairfax County, Virginia, School Board."Our default on a normal school day in Fairfax County is 18 inches, not six feet, not three feet, 18 inches. We're the size of five Pentagons. You would need another five Pentagons of space to be able to safely accommodate all of the students in Fairfax County Public Schools." Bash tried very hard, with no success, to get DeVos to explain how Fairfax County could open safely. Though schools throughout America will all be facing this same problem in just a few weeks, DeVos gave no potential solution to the social distancing problem. Ultimately DeVos said she would meet with Fairfax County to discuss a plan, as if Fairfax County is the only education system in America that doesn't have the physical space to practice social distancing.
DEVOS: Well, I'm glad you brought up Fairfax County, because I think it's a very important contrast to, for example, the plans that Miami- Dade County has in place.
And I understand you're having leaders from both of those districts on your program today.
I -- the contract between the two is stark. In Miami-Dade County, they have a continuity-of-instruction plan that has been robust. I mean, they -- granted, they had this plan or they've been working on this plan because they often experience hurricane damage.
But this plan has multiple ...
BASH: Well, can we just stick -- can we stick on Fairfax County, ma'am, and not Miami-Dade, because this is something that you ...
DEVOS: Yes, I'm going to -- I'm going to contrast it.
BASH: ... that you have -- that you have brought up, and you have said it's not ...
DEVOS: But I'm going to contrast it, because it's a multiplicity of platforms.
It's a -- it's a wide variety of approaches to -- but with the expectation that, if you have to move to a remote instruction situation, that you have full-time learning going on for all students at all times.
BASH: OK, I spent time in Fairfax County. I don't want to get to -- much into this, but ...
DEVOS: The Fairfax County plan is not -- it is not a full-time learning plan.
BASH: But they do have full-time virtual learning.
DEVOS: The full-time -- the Fairfax County plan is not -- no, no, four days a week, either four days a week online and online, and the fifth day not, and two -- or two days a week in person.
These are not valid options and choices for families. And it's not full-time instruction.
What -- what you are saying is you want kids back in school. What he is saying is, because they have almost 200,000 children in their school district, they would have to build the size of five Pentagons in order to accommodate what you are asking for. They're a wealthy district, but, even with money, it's just not feasible. So, what is your recommendation, given that reality?DEVOS: My recommendation is, he take up the offer to meet with my team and some of the folks from the CDC and the task force to talk about ways that they can look at this freshly and differently on behalf of the students they're serving.
I have many of them on my -- on my team.
BASH: Should they follow CDC guidelines?
DEVOS: The CDC guidelines are just that, meant to be flexible and meant to be applied as appropriate for the situation.
And so I would look forward to ...
BASH: But you understand how confusing it is and how hard it is ...
DEVOS: I would look forward to work -- to working with him to ...
BASH: ... to have CDC guidelines on one hand ...
DEVOS: Can I finish my statement?
BASH: Sure. Go ahead.
DEVOS: I was just going to say, I would look forward to meeting with him, along with some of the folks from the task force, and talking about how this can practically happen.
I think we're all on the same page. We want kids to get back to school. We want them to be learning full-time, full-time ...
BASH: What ...
DEVOS: ... not just a part-time, not just an episodic situation. But kids have got to be learning full-time ...
DEVOS: ... and have the expectation that the next school year is going to give them at least a school year's worth of learning, if not more ...
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