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Vice President Pence visits North Carolina, continues push for schools to re-open

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 8:57 PM EDT
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CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) -

Vice President Mike Pence visited North Carolina on Wednesday, as he and the Trump administration push forward in their efforts to reopen schools despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

"To open up America, we've got to open up America's schools," says the Vice President.

Joined by Education Secretary Betsy Devos, the Vice President toured the Thales Academy in Apex.

They then held a round-table discussion with school leaders about getting kids back in the classroom safely, after the private academy re-opened eight locations to in-person learning last week.

"I'm here to listen and to learn from your experience here, at the forefront of re-opening a school here in America," Vice President Pence explains.

The academy's blueprint is one he says can be mirrored by schools across the nation.

“The risk the coronavirus poses to healthy children is very low. and we believe that with the right measures in place, we can safely operate our schools just as you’re doing here,” the Vice President adds.

But in Eastern Carolina, many schools are hesitant to take that step.

"It's been hard, because we can't plan. It's been the toughest summer in my 25 years of teaching," says Michelle Smith, a teacher at Early College East in Havelock.

Teachers at Early College East returned this week ahead of their new school year that begins on Monday.

Educators say they are torn between safety and providing the best learning experience possible.

"I don't want to do anything that puts any of our children or staff in danger, but I also miss my students and want to be able to give them the full experience," Smith adds.

But with Craven County Schools set to go online only, classrooms will remain empty for now.

Though they can’t educate in-person, teachers say they’ll adapt and be ready when students come back.

“It’s heartbreaking to not have that, but we’re determined to make it work. We’re resilient. It is not easy,” Smith says.

President Trump has threatened to withhold funding from schools that don’t open back up to students, but Governor Roy Cooper maintains that schools in the state can choose on their own between a mixed-learning experience or online education.

Copyright 2020 WITN. All rights reserved.

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