Jill Biden hit the road on Wednesday to talk about school safety during the COVID pandemic after making her own return to in-person learning but wouldn’t answer questions on whether there should be a vaccine mandate for classrooms.
‘I don’t think we’re taking questions,’ she said when she was asked by a reporter if public schools should have vaccine mandates.
President Joe Biden recently mandated vaccines for all federal workers and the Labor Department issued new regulations requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to have mandates or weekly testing.
Biden was in Milwaukee to talk school reopening and safety issues as students return to the classroom during the pandemic. She returned to her own in-person teaching job at a Northern Virginia Community College last week.
At the Marvin E. Pratt Elementary School she talked about the worries that come with returning to class during a pandemic.
‘A simple cough can get your heart racing,’ she acknowledged.
She called for unity, saying it was best for children.
‘We can’t know what the future holds, but we know what we owe our children. We owe them a province that will do all that we can to keep their schools open, and as safe as possible. We owe them a commitment to follow the science, and we owe them unity. So we can fight the virus, and not each other,’ she said.
Jill Biden hit the road on Wednesday to talk about school safety during the COVID pandemic after making her own return to in-person learning
She would not answer questions on vaccine mandates for schools
After her remarks she spoke with educators and parents of students.
When one parent told her there had not been a debate about face masks in the school district, Biden praised them for being unified on the issue. Several states, like Florida and Texas, are fighting CDC recommendations for face masks in classrooms.
‘That probably just takes that stress off of you as well,’ she noted.
Biden and the participants in the roundtable wore face masks.
The first lady, 70, followed the lead of many other students and teachers last Tuesday when she returned to the classroom at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has worked since 2009, teaching English and writing.
She is the first first lady in modern history to have a paying job outside of her White House duties. The role of first lady is largely ceremonial and, while it includes a staff, it is an unpaid position.
Biden defines herself by her teaching job, which she talks about frequently in public appearances and in interviews.
‘Teaching isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am,’ she says. She has two masters and a doctorate in education.
She had taught through the COVID pandemic by zoom – even when traveling she would delay official events until the afternoon so she could teach in the mornings. She often grades papers on flights.
But she spoke of her longing to be back in the same room with her students.
‘I can’t wait to get back in the classroom,’ she recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.
First lady Jill Biden arrives at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee
During the pandemic, she flew around the country to schools and COVID clinics, urging people to get vaccinated to help lives return to their normal routines. She was advocate – along with her husband – to reopen schools.
In March, she and Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, visited classrooms in Connecticut and Pennsylvania where students were wearing masks and sitting behind plastic dividers. In May, she and the president visited a class of fifth-grade students at an elementary school in Yorktown to see how they were learning during the pandemic.
Going back to class is old hat for the first lady. She taught at the Northern Virginia school while her husband was vice president.
She arrived for her first day back in class via a presidential motorcade. She has Secret Service agents with her – as she did when she was second lady – but, back then, the agents, at her request, dressed in jeans and toted back packs to mix in with her students.
She will teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with travel on days when she is not in the classroom.
And she’ll be wearing a face mask. The state of Virginia requires everyone to wear face coverings indoors on Northern Virginia Community College campuses, regardless of vaccination status. Biden is fully vaccinated.