Bidens welcome students back to class with visit to Washington middle school

President Joe Biden talks with a student as he and first lady Jill Biden welcome students back to school at Eliot-Hine Middle School in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Photo by Chris Kleponis/ UPI
1 of 6 | President Joe Biden talks with a student as he and first lady Jill Biden welcome students back to school at Eliot-Hine Middle School in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Photo by Chris Kleponis/ UPI | License Photo

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed students to a new academic year on Monday with a brief visit to a public middle school in Washington, D.C.

During their visit to Eliot-Hine Middle School in northeast D.C., the first couple met with students in a school hallway as they recessed for lunch and later spoke in front of an eighth-grade math class.


"The hardest thing is coming back after three months of not doing any work, not doing any homework, and all of a sudden, to have a lot to make up," Joe Biden told the students. "And you all look so excited to be in math class on your first day back!"

When the president asked them what's their hardest subject in school, the students uniformly answered, "math."


"I'll tell you what," he responded. "I married a woman who's a teacher, full-time. And guess what? She teaches English."

"I want to wish you a great school year," the first lady told the children, adding that her own first day back in class is coming next week.

"I've been working on lesson plans that we're going to do the first day, so I'm excited," she said, sharing that she, like many teachers, becomes so anxious the night before the first day of school she has trouble sleeping.

Jill Biden also told the students, "You know you can go to your teachers" for help with problems at home or in the classroom.

The first couple concluded their visit as the president shook hands with several excited students at their desks.

The first couple's visit came as the Biden administration touted its work to help to reopen public schools for in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and closures led to fewer than half of K-12 students physically attending class, the White House said in a statement Monday.

"President Biden has worked to help every school open safely for in-person instruction, accelerate academic achievement, and build communities where all students feel they belong," the statement said.


From the outset of the pandemic, public school employment plummeted by 730,000 jobs from February to May 2020 -- a 9% decline for teachers, specialized instructional support personnel, and other critical staff, the White House said.

By June 2023, education employment had rebounded, increasing by 635,000 jobs since the low point in May 2020. This significant rebound now means that there are now only 1.2% fewer individuals working in local public education than before the pandemic," the White House said.

Biden, who took office about 10 months into the global health emergency, planned to call attention to $130 billion provided through the American Rescue Plan to help schools reopen and address academic and mental health needs of students who had lost instructional time while mostly isolated from classmates.

The bulk of the funds was being used to hire more teachers, counselors, social workers, and other school support staff while also providing tutoring and expanded summer school and after-hours programs that were working to raise test scores in math and literacy across the country.

Previously, Biden called for adding 250,000 more tutors, mentors and other critical support staff across the country over the next three years.

The money has also helped bring HVAC improvements to aging school buildings with long-term air quality and safety needs.


More than two years into Biden's term, the number of social workers in public schools had increased by 39% when compared to the number in place before the pandemic, while the number of public school nurses was also up 30% over the same period, the White House said.

The White House also touted his efforts to expand mental health services in schools nationwide as an increasing number of kids were experiencing depression, social anxiety, and other personal challenges in the age of social media.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act -- the gun safety bill that Biden signed into law in 2022 -- included $2 billion in funding to shore up school safety and to hire and train more mental health professionals to support public school students.

So far, the Education Department has awarded $286 million to schools in 48 states to support mental health -- with additional funding that would add about 14,000 new mental health professionals in schools over the coming years.

Separately, Biden will deliver remarks Monday evening at a reception in the East Room to mark the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Latest Headlines