Education Secretary DeVos Says Local School Leaders Will Handle Potential COVID-19 Outbreaks

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said local school districts across the country should have their own remote learning plans if coronavirus outbreaks occur.

DeVos reiterated Sunday that the federal Department of Education is only focused on pushing schools across the U.S. to return this fall, saying that local school administrators can decide on a case-by-case basis whether Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines work for their students.

She ruled out the possibility that schools may not return in-person over COVID-19 concerns and told both CNN's State of the Union and Fox News Sunday "it's not a matter of if, but a matter of how" school restarts.

Betsy DeVos won't commit to whether or not the Dept. of Education will follow the CDC guidelines to re-open schools, repeatedly says they are just "recommendations" and that they need to get kids "back in the classroom"

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 12, 2020

DeVos said local school district leaders should look toward examples of COVID-19 responses used in the "private sector" for help in responding to potential outbreaks.

"You're the Secretary of Education, you're asking students to go back. So why do you not have guidance on what a school should do just weeks before schools open and what happens if it faces an outbreak?" State of the Union host Dana Bash asked DeVos.

"You know there's really good examples that have been utilized in the private sector and elsewhere, also with front-line workers and hospitals and all of that data and all of that information and all those examples can be referenced by those school leaders," DeVos said. "They can figure out what is right for their specific situation."

The State of the Union host pressed DeVos with this question: "Yes or no — can you assure students, teachers and parents that they will not get coronavirus because they're going back to school?"

"Well, the key is that kids have to get back to school," DeVos replied, saying the federal agency is all on the same page. "Kids need to get back in the classroom, families need kids to get back in the classroom."

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Education's Washington office for additional remarks Sunday morning.

The CDC recommended the installation of physical barriers, closing playgrounds, keeping desks six feet apart, and not sharing books--as many schools across the country are just weeks away from returning for the fall semester. President Donald Trump labeled such recommendations "very tough, expensive and not very practical."

DeVos responded to the president's criticism of the CDC guidelines by once again saying schools must decide for themselves on how to handle social distancing.

"Every school should have plans for that situation and be able to pivot to make sure kids can continue learning at a distance if they have to for a short period of time," she explained. "Every situation is going to look slightly different."

Many universities are offering students remote learning opportunities as a means of maintaining social distancing away from campuses. But federal immigration officials warned foreign students in the U.S. that they must take in-person classes in order to avoid the risk of deportation.

betsy devos education secretary coronavirus
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said local schools districts across the country should have their own remote learning plans should coronavirus outbreaks occur as she repeatedly stated Sunday that her primary objective is simply: "Kids have got to get back to school." Screenshot: CNN | Twitter