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U.S. Department of Education Announces Return-to-School Road Trip to Spotlight Safe Return to In-Person Learning

On Monday, Sept. 20, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will launch the “Return to School Road Trip,” a bus tour to showcase students and communities safely returning to in-person learning. Throughout the tour, Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, and local school leaders will join students, parents, educators, and school communities for events that highlight schools and communities that have safely welcomed students back to in-person learning.

The “Return to School Road Trip” will feature stops in: Eau Claire, Madison, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Palatine and Chicago, Illinois; Kendallville, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio; and Mt. Pleasant, Lansing, Detroit, and Canton, Michigan. Secretary Cardona will visit students from pre-kindergarten through higher education, highlighting how students, families, and the educators and staff who serve them across the country are excited and ready for safe in-person learning this fall.

“The best part of fall is welcoming students back for a new school year, and I’m thrilled to be traveling across the Midwest to celebrate the return to safe in-person learning,” said Secretary Cardona. “The return to school this year is more special than ever, after many of our nation’s students have been disconnected from their peers, educators, classrooms, school communities and learning routines for over a year. I’m excited to kick off our Return to School Road Trip next week, where we will meet with students of all ages, dedicated educators and school staff, and community leaders doing critical work to bring students back to in-person learning safely this fall.”

Last month, the Department released its “Return to School Roadmap,” a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning and emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. The Roadmap includes three “Landmark” priorities that schools, districts, and communities are encouraged to focus on to ensure all students are set up for success in the 2021-2022 school year. These include: (1) prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff, and educators, (2) building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health, and (3) accelerating academic achievement.

Many of the schools and communities featured in the tour have successfully implemented the priorities within the Roadmap and have used federal pandemic relief funds to support these efforts.  

The American Rescue Plan provided more than $130 billion in K-12 emergency relief funds that can be used to support the safe return to in-person learning, including by improving ventilation systems, encouraging vaccinations, performing testing and contact tracing, and using CDC-recommended strategies like universal indoor masking; as well as address the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students.

Additionally, the American Rescue Plan provided $40 billion in relief funds to institutions of higher education to provide direct relief to students and support the safe reopening of colleges and universities across the country. The Road Trip will highlight how those resources have enabled communities to bring students back into classrooms where they can reengage with their classmates and teachers, participate in extracurriculars, and access the critical social, emotional, and mental health supports that schools provide. 

In addition to the Roadmap and the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the Biden Administration has taken a series of steps to help schools and communities recover from the pandemic and build back better:

  • Prioritizing vaccine access for school staff, by issuing a directive making teachers eligible in March, setting a goal of getting all school staff who wanted the vaccination to be able to get at least one shot in the month of March, and resulting in about 90% of educators vaccinated today.
  • Expanding access to the vaccine for young people, by issuing a call to school districts to host on-site, with collaboration from Health and Human Services, pop-up vaccination clinics at schools, in partnership with the federal pharmacy program; and incorporating COVID-19 vaccination into sports physicals for student athletes.
  • Requiring staff in Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools to be vaccinated.
  • Called on all states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees.
  • Announced a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have been financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as universal indoor masking.
  • Published a Safer Schools and Best Practices Clearinghouse, which includes over 200 examples of schools and communities safely returning to in-person learning.
  • Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
  • Providing $122 billion in support through the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for K-12 schools.
  • Released over $3 billion in IDEA funds within the American Rescue Plan to support infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities impacted by the pandemic.
  • Released $800 million within the American Rescue Plan to support students experiencing homelessness who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
  • Awarded nearly $40 billion in funding for institutions of higher education within the American Rescue Plan, about half of which will provide direct aid to students at postsecondary institutions.
  • Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved students.
  • Published released Frequently Asked Questions on effectively using American Rescue Plan funding to support evidence-based, full-service community schools and related approaches.
  • Collaborated with HHS to Published a resource detailing strategies for using American Rescue Plan funding to improve ventilation systems and indoor air quality in schools.
  • Published a resource detailing strategies for using American Rescue Plan funding to address the impact of lost instructional time.
  • Launched an Equity Summit Series focused on addressing school and district inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic.

Preliminary details about bus tour activities are listed below. Additional information and exact timing for each site will be released the day prior to the tour stop. Many of the events will include a press availability with Secretary Cardona and local leaders.

To RSVP for stops on the tour, please email [email protected]. Follow the bus tour on social media at #BackTogether.

EVENT 1 TOPIC: Return to School pep rally
WHEN: Monday morning, Sept. 20
WHERE: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

EVENT 2 TOPIC: Celebrating public service
WHEN: Monday afternoon, Sept. 20
WHERE: Madison, Wisconsin

EVENT 3 TOPIC: Celebrating teachers and support staff
WHEN: Monday evening, Sept. 20
WHERE: Milwaukee

EVENT 4 TOPIC: Spotlighting academic excellence
WHEN: Tuesday morning, Sept. 21
WHERE: Palatine, Illinois

EVENT 5 TOPIC: College access, opportunity, and career development for students
WHEN: Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21
WHERE: Chicago

EVENT 6 TOPIC: Adult education and literacy
WHEN: Wednesday morning, Sept. 22
WHERE: Kendallville, Indiana

EVENT 7 TOPIC: Youth sports and extracurricular events
WHEN: Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 22
WHERE: Toledo, Ohio

EVENT 8 TOPIC: Support for Tribal Colleges and Universities
WHEN: Thursday morning, Sept. 23
WHERE: Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

EVENT 9 TOPIC: Early childhood education
WHEN: Thursday afternoon, Sept. 23
WHERE: Lansing, Michigan

EVENT 10 TOPIC: Family literacy
WHEN: Thursday evening, Sept. 23
WHERE: Detroit

EVENT 11 TOPIC: Return to School visit
WHEN: Friday morning, Sept. 24
WHERE: Canton, Michigan

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