Kids in reopened school tell the Bidens they miss eating and napping on virtual learning sessions

First couple visits Virginia elementary school during public relations push to sway opinion in favour of massive federal spending package

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Monday 03 May 2021 19:46 BST
Related video: Biden presents ‘blueprint to build America’

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden were told by school kids that they miss eating and napping during virtual learning as the first couple visited a reopened elementary school in Yorktown in eastern Virginia.

The first couple hit the road to promote the Biden administration’s pitch to spend another $4.1tn on op of the $1.9tn Covid rescue package passed earlier this year.

The unprecedented federal spending package includes the $2.3tn American Jobs Plan and the $1.8tn American Families Plan. The White House hopes to sway public opinion in their favour before difficult negotiations with congressional Republicans.

As they spoke to fifth-grade students about the differences between learning from home and in-person lessons, the Bidens got to hear some straightforward opinions on coming back from a year of homeschooling during the pandemic.

Children are back to in-person learning at the Yorktown Elementary School four days a week, with a break on Wednesdays for cleaning.

In the classroom, each student wore a mask and was surrounded by plastic shields.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a student demonstrate her project during a visit to Yorktown Elementary School, on Monday, May 3, 2021, in Yorktown, Virginia.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden watch a student demonstrate her project during a visit to Yorktown Elementary School, on Monday, May 3, 2021, in Yorktown, Virginia. (AP)

One girl told the president that learning from home “was a little difficult with all the glitches. I definitely prefer it this way though”.

“I didn’t like virtual. It was terrible,” one boy added.

One student noted that “you could eat” while the teacher was helping somebody else during virtual classes.

Another student said that “if we were really tired we could take a little nap”.

First Lady Jill Biden teaches at a Community College in Northern Virginia. She laughed at the napping comment and said her students do the same thing.

She said: “You just turn off the camera. I’ve seen that.”

While Republicans have blasted Mr Biden for not opening schools fast enough, the American Rescue Plan, which included funding for schools to boost reopening efforts, received no Republican votes.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told CBS’sFace the Nation on Sunday: “We’re going to work with Republicans. We’re going to find common ground. You know, the Senate last week passed by an overwhelming margin, a part of a water infrastructure bill that’s ... related to our jobs plan. So I think you’re starting to see some progress here.”

Biden adviser Anita Dunn told CNN’s State of the Union: “President Biden has been clear that he knows this is a negotiation, that he knows that negotiation requires compromise at some point, and that he wants to move this package forward in a bipartisan way if that’s possible.”

“We’re looking forward to having discussions. We are open to people’s ideas. This is discussion time and idea time for the White House,” she added.

Republicans have pitched a narrower infrastructure plan with a total price tag at $568bn compared to Mr Biden’s more expansive bill coming in at a hefty $2.3tn. Retiring Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman told NBC’sMeet the Press: “Frankly, if the White House is going to work with us, this is a deal we can do.”

Later on Monday, while continuing his Virginia tour, Mr Biden defended his push to pay for his spending plans with tax hikes on the wealthy and on corporations.

While speaking at a community college in Norfolk in coastal Virginia, Mr Biden said: “Do we want to give the wealthiest people in America another tax cut, or do you want to give every high school graduate the ability to earn a community college degree?”

“I think it’s about time we started giving tax breaks and tax benefits to working-class families and middle-class families, instead of just the very wealthy,” he added.

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