May 6 (UPI) -- Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday morning he expects all schools to be fully open by the fall for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic started more than a year ago.
Cardona made his comments on MSNBC's show Morning Joe, recognizing that President Joe Biden reached one of his administration goals of opening a majority of K-8 schools to in-person learning five days a week this spring.
"With regard to September, yes, I expect all schools to be open full time in person for all students," Cardona said on morning show. "We really need to make sure students have the opportunity to learn in the classroom, and quite frankly, I'd rather have it this spring."
Cardona said the push to get schools to reopen is critical because educators found that in-classroom instruction was simply more effective than prolonging online learning.
"Students don't learn as well remotely," Cardona said. "There is no substitute for in-person learning."
In a statement released Thursday by the White House on the results of the March 2021 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Cardona said 54% of all K-8 schools are now open for full instruction and 88% were open to at least a mixture of in-person and virtual learning.
"Today's data also shows positive trendlines of increasing numbers of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native students enrolled in in-person learning since January," Cardona said. "This success is the result of hard work and intentional collaboration between the administration, states, school districts, educators and families across the country."
Cardona said, though, the reopening effort will not be complete until all schools feel they can safely reopen. He said schools are still seeing a much lower percentage of Black, Hispanic, and Asian students enrolled in full-time in-person learning compared to their White counterparts.
"Even when offered in-person options, many Black, Hispanic, and Asian students, as well as multilingual learners and students with disabilities, are still learning fully remote," Cardona said. "At the national and local level, we must act with urgency and bring every resource to bear to get more schools reopened full-time this spring and address the inequities that continue to persist in our classrooms and communities."