Mike Pence To Visit Raleigh In Push For Schools To Reopen

Jul 29, 2020

Vice President Mike Pence, center, gestures as he speaks during a news conference with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Don Soffer Clinical Research Center, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Miami. Pence was in Florida to mark the beginning of Phase III trials for a coronavirus vaccine.
Credit Wilfredo Lee / AP

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Raleigh on Wednesday morning in a push to encourage more K-12 schools to reopen with entirely in-person instruction.

According to an announcement from his office, Pence will join a roundtable discussion highlighting how a private school has worked to safely resume classes. Thales Academy allowed 300 students to return to campus on July 20.

The school, founded by a prominent GOP donor, resumed in-person classes last week and then needed an overnight deep cleaning because a staff member tested positive.

Private schools are not subject to the same rules for face coverings and social distancing as public schools in North Carolina. But state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen told reporters Tuesday she hopes they will still proceed with caution.

“Now I know many of the private schools are implementing these plans,” Cohen said. “Some are using a combination of remote instruction and these altered safety plans in place. And we encourage them to continue to look at our guidance and to take and heed the warnings and our concern that we have about viral spread in our state."

The move comes as President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos have threatened to withhold federal funding from K-12 schools that don't allow all of their students to return to physical classrooms.

Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier this month that public schools may offer a mix of both online and in-person instruction, though districts can choose to offer fully remote learning.

“We don’t respond to those kind of threats,” Cooper said in a July 14 news conference of the Trump administration's consideration of withholding federal funds.

After his visit to Thales Academy, Pence will remain in the Raleigh area to tour NCBiotech, which is conducting Phase 3 clinical trails for a coronavirus vaccine. Pence's appearance will come two days after Trump visited Morrisville to tout the country's progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine under his Operation Warp Speed initiative.

The vice president's office said on Tuesday that Pence will "discuss President Trump’s goal of making a coronavirus vaccine available to the American people as soon and as safely as possible.”