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Psaki Says U.S. ‘More Than Equipped to Ensure Schools are Open’ as Chicago Teachers Strike

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 12, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said schools can remain open safely during the latest surge of Covid-19 cases, saying children need not endure the mental health impact of not being in school.

Psaki’s comments come as Chicago Public Schools closed on Wednesday after the Chicago Teachers’ Union voted Tuesday to strike against in-person schooling and conduct remote instruction until extra Covid-19 safety measures are in place. 

During a press briefing on Wednesday, a reporter asked Psaki if the White House, Department of Education, or Biden administration at-large is doing anything to help get teachers and students back into the classroom in Chicago.

“Across government we are in regular contact with a range of stakeholders on the issue of school reopening and closures, including superintendents, state leaders, principals, teachers, parents and other school staff and that is certainly the case now, today, this week, as the president is working — and we are all working — to keep schools open,” Psaki said.

She noted that Biden said Tuesday that he wants school to be open — a shift from earlier in the pandemic when Biden and the CDC supported lockdowns and school closures.

“We know they can be open safely and we’re here to help make that happen and he agrees with medical, scientific and education experts that because of the historic work we’ve done we are more than equipped to ensure schools are open and we’re going to keep our children and educators who selflessly serve their community safe but ensure that children are not enduring the mental health impact of not being in school.”

She added that the administration wants to ensure there are not gaps in learning in schools everywhere, including in Chicago. She added that 96 percent of schools are “doing just that.”

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