July 12 (UPI) -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Sunday reiterated the call from the federal government that schools throughout the nation must reopen in the fall despite recent surges in COVID-19 cases.
Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, DeVos repeatedly stated that it should be the standard that schools are open for in-person instruction in the fall and that individual school districts have plans to respond to outbreaks of the coronavirus.
"What we're saying is that kids need to be back in school and that school leaders across the country need to be making plans to do just that," said DeVos. "There's going to be the exception to the rule, but the rule should be that kids go back to school this fall. And where there are little flare-ups or hot spots, that can be dealt with on a school-by-school or a case-by-case basis."
DeVos also declined to offer a unified set of guidelines for school reopenings from the Department of Education, adding that guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "recommendations and every situation is going to look slightly different."
"Kids need to be in school. They need to be learning, they need to be moving ahead and we cannot be paralyzed and not allow that or not be intent on that happening," she said.
DeVos said that schools should be able to individually decide to go to distance learning for a short period of time if they experience a surge in cases but should make plans to be open for the majority of the school year.
"If there is a short term flare-up for a few days, that's a different situation than planning for an entire school year in anticipation of something that hasn't happened," she said.
Assistant Secretary of Health Adm. Brett Giroir told ABC News' This Week that children not being in school "risk their social and emotional health, risk many people with nutrition, the recognition of child abuse, child sexual abuse" stressing the importance of returning physically to school.
"But we have to do that safely," he said. "And the first thing we need to do is we need to get the virus under control. When we get the virus under control, then we can really think about how we put children back in the classroom."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also appearing on CNN's State of the Union, described the push by DeVos and the Trump administration to force children back to school as "appalling."
"The president and his administration are messing with the health of our children. We all want our children to go back to school. Teachers do. Parents do. And children do. But they must go back safely," said Pelosi. "And what you hear what the administration is saying, we know they have no appreciation for the failure that has brought us to this point."