White House won't say if Karen Pence will return to teaching this fall

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The second lady has pushed for schools to reopen, even amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Trump administration has demanded schools reopen for in-person instruction despite the pandemic, but won’t say if second lady Karen Pence will be among those returning to the classroom next month.

Immanuel Christian School is "planning to return to full time instruction on campus in August," according to its website. The school confirmed its plan to reopen during a brief phone call on Wednesday.

Pence taught art classes at the school two days a week last year.

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"I am excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do," Pence said in January 2019. "I have missed teaching art."

Pence previously taught at Immanuel Christian for 12 years when her husband was a member of Congress.

The White House did not respond to multiple emails asking about the second lady’s plans for the upcoming school year.

Immanuel Christian officials did not answer questions about Pence specifically on Wednesday, and did not respond to multiple email inquiries on the topic.

On July 7, Pence spoke at a White House event encouraging schools to reopen in the fall, despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

"We need to take care of our kids," the second lady said, claiming that reopening schools would prevent "these emotional, mental health challenges that our kids will face if they don't get back into school."

Her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, has made similar statements in support of in-person instruction this fall.

It is "absolutely essential that we get our kids back into classroom for in-person learning," the vice president said on July 8. On Tuesday, he reiterated the position during a trip to Louisiana, saying, "We really do believe that to open up America again, we need to open up our schools."

Donald Trump previously threatened to cut off federal funding for schools that opted not to open for in-person instruction this fall, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos demanded that schools "must reopen and they must be fully operational," on July 8.

"Ultimately, it's not a matter of if schools should reopen. It's simply a matter of how," she said.

Rushing to reopen schools without "a comprehensive plan that includes federal resources to provide for the safety of our students and educators with funding for Personal Protective Equipment, socially distanced instruction, and addressing racial inequity" has the potential to put students and teachers at risk, according to a joint letter from the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and other groups representing the interests of educators and parents.

"No one wants students to safely return to classrooms more than parents, educators and administrators. We also recognize that we must do it the safest way possible, not the most politically expedient way," the groups wrote.

"As parents, educators and administrators, we want to do what is best for students, and we are fighting for what we need to reopen schools safely. This administration and Congress must do better to partner with us and lead."

Immanuel Christian is located in northern Virginia, about 15 miles from the White House.

Coronavirus cases in that area have remained steady since June 20, according to Washington, D.C., NBC affiliate WRC-TV, but Fairfax County, where Immanuel Christian is located, still has one of the highest concentrations of cases in the state. The county has 1,273 cases per 100,000 residents compared to a statewide average of 744 per 100,000 residents.

On its website, Immanuel Christian laid out a "Return to Campus Plan" with some of the health and safety precautions it will take to reduce potential spread of the virus.

The measures include staggering when students change classrooms to reduce the number of people in the hallways, implementing new cleaning routines, requiring students to take their temperature before school each day, and installing hand sanitizer stations in each room.

The plan, which was updated in June, did not mention face masks, which health officials advise wearing to reduce the spread of the virus.

Pence's decision to teach at Immanuel Christian sparked controversy last year because of the school’s bigoted policies.

In order to work at the school, applicants must agree that marriage should only be between one man and one woman, and the school refuses to accept LGBTQ students, HuffPost reported.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.