- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2021

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden heard mixed reviews about virtual learning from elementary school students during a swing through Yorktown, Virginia, on Monday morning.

Some students at Yorktown Elementary School told the president and first lady they liked virtual learning OK and one told Mr. Biden it was “kind of fun” because of the availability of snacks.

Another student said that if you didn’t know the answer to a question you could just pretend like your microphone wasn’t working.

“It was a little difficult with all the glitches, but it ended up being pretty good,” one student said.

Another student told Mrs. Biden they didn’t like virtual learning.

“It was terrible,” they said.

The Bidens visited the classroom as the president tries to sell his $4 trillion-plus infrastructure and social spending agenda and tout the education funding in his $1.9 trillion relief package.

The president and first lady spoke to a classroom of 18 students, who sat at desks protected on three sides by a plexiglass shield.

All of the schools in the York County School Division have been open for four days per week of in-person learning since April 12.

“You guys are impressive. This is ninth grade, right?” Mr. Biden said. “Seems like ninth grade — you’re so smart.”

One of the glass partitions being used to shield the children fell off a student’s desk.

“That’s probably my fault,” the president said. “I probably walked by it too closely.”

Mrs. Biden helped put it back in place.

“Are you OK? You weren’t scared, were you?” Mrs. Biden asked.

“He doesn’t look like he gets scared,” Mr. Biden said.

The students were designing a structure for their teacher to survive a storm if she was shipwrecked. Some took it a step further and mapped out a gravesite for a less-than-optimistic scenario.

“I think your teacher can handle it,” Mrs. Biden said.

Mr. Biden told NBC News last week that all K-12 schools should probably be open for full-time, in-person learning by the fall.

White House adviser Anita Dunn said on CNN over the weekend that much will depend on the virus.

“He said probably. He did not say absolutely, because we have all seen this since, unfortunately, January of 2020. It’s an unpredictable virus,” Ms. Dunn said. “If people get their vaccine, if schools follow the CDC guidelines, then, as he said, we probably should be able to have them open.”

The administration has allocated $81 billion out of approximately $122 billion in available funding for schools through the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress passed in March.

Virginia was allocated $2 billion for K-12 schools through the relief package.

Mr. Biden‘s $2.3 trillion infrastructure package includes $100 billion for school infrastructure upgrades. His $1.8 trillion “families” plan provides at least two years of free community college for all students, universal pre-K, and additional funding for teacher training.

Mr. Biden was set to visit Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth later Monday.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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