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Jill Biden hits the road to tout COVID school safety

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Jill Biden went out on Wednesday to talk about school safety during the COVID pandemic after returning to personal learning herself, but declined to answer questions about whether there should be a classroom vaccine mandate.

“I don’t think we’re answering questions,” she said when asked by a reporter whether public schools should have vaccine mandates.

President Joe Biden recently mandated vaccines for all federal employees and the Department of Labor issued new regulations requiring companies with more than 100 employees to have mandates or test weekly.

Biden was in Milwaukee to discuss school reopening and safety issues as students return to the classroom during the pandemic. She returned to her own personal job as a teacher at a Northern Virginia Community College last week.

At Marvin E. Pratt Elementary School, she spoke about the concerns associated with returning to class during a pandemic.

“A simple cough can make your heart beat faster,” she acknowledged.

She called for unity and said 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 everything they can to keep their schools open and as safe as possible. We owe them a commitment to follow science, and we owe them unity. So we can fight the virus, not each other,” she said.

Jill Biden went out on Wednesday to talk about school safety during the COVID pandemic after returning to personal learning herself

She wouldn't answer questions about vaccine mandates for schools

She wouldn’t answer questions about vaccine mandates for schools

After her comments, she spoke to educators and parents of students.

When a parent told her there had been no debate about face masks in the school district, Biden praised them for being united on the issue. Several states, such as Florida and Texas, are fighting the CDC recommendations for face masks in classrooms.

“That probably takes that stress off you too,” she noted.

Biden and the round table participants wore face masks.

The first lady, 70, followed the lead of many other students and teachers last Tuesday as she returned to the classroom at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has worked, teaching and writing English since 2009.

She is the first first lady in modern history to have a paid job outside of her White House duties. The role of first lady is largely ceremonial and although it includes a staff, it is an unpaid position.

Biden is characterized by her teaching job, which she often talks about in public appearances and in interviews.

“Teaching isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am,” she says. She has two masters degrees and a doctorate in education.

She had taught via zoom during the COVID pandemic – even when she was traveling, she postponed official events until the afternoon so she could teach in the morning. She often reviews papers on flights.

But she spoke about her desire to be in the same room with her students again.

“I can’t wait to get back into the classroom,” she recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.

First lady Jill Biden arrives at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee

First lady Jill Biden arrives at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee

During the pandemic, she flew across the country to schools and COVID clinics and urged people to get vaccinated to help lives return to their normal routines. She and her husband championed the reopening of schools.

In March, she and Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, visited classrooms in Connecticut and Pennsylvania where students wore masks and sat behind plastic partitions. In May, she and the president visited a class of fifth-grade students at a Yorktown elementary school to see how they were learning during the pandemic.

Going back to class is old fashioned for the first lady. She taught at the Northern Virginia School while her husband was vice president.

She came back to class for her first day via a presidential motorcade. She has Secret Service agents with her – as she did when she was second lady – but then, at her request, the agents were dressed in jeans and backpacks to mingle with her students.

She teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with travel on days when she is not in class.

And she will wear a face mask. The state of Virginia requires that everyone indoors wear face coverings on Northern Virginia Community College campuses, regardless of vaccination status. Biden is fully vaccinated.

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