Jill Biden speaks with local mothers
By Kevin Boneske
GREEN BAY – The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made a virtual visit Tuesday, Sept. 8, as part of the campaign’s Back to School Tour.
Dr. Jill Biden participated in the virtual meeting with Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and a pair of Green Bay mothers.
Jill Biden, who has more than 30 years of teaching experience, said feelings of excitement to start a new school year have turned into anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And now playgrounds are still,” she said. “Some classrooms are dark, as the bright, young faces that should fill them are now confined to boxes on a computer screen.”
Though some classrooms opened, Jill Biden said they are full of unknowns about whether students should return.
“In the Green Bay area, classes have already started virtually,” she said. “Even with the best of planning, that will come with challenges, especially for those children who are most vulnerable during this time.”
Jill Biden said her husband is “ready to get to work to make our schools safe and equitable for all children on day one.”
“He knows that schools and child care providers are going to need funds to help them keep staff and children safe with protective gear,” she said. “They’re going to need help making sure classrooms can physically distance and make sure students have access to broadband and other technology, if we continue to rely on remote learning. Both students and educators are going to need more mental health support to deal with the trauma of this pandemic.”
Jill Biden said she also called for “big changes to the status quo” because the pandemic has “shined a bright light on the systemic inequities in our education system.”
“We need to identify best practices to address these gaps and provide funding to implement them,” she said. “When Joe is president, he and Vice President Kamala Harris are going to make sure that we do all those things.”
Jill Biden said the purpose of the Back to School Tour is “to better understand what each community needs, whether it’s serving students of color, English Language Learners, students with disabilities or low-income families.”
“We’re going to talk about access to technology, food insecurity and mental health support,” she said. “And I’m going to take that back to our campaign, so we that can be ready on day one to turn this around.”
Joe Biden is seeking to unseat Republican President Donald Trump, who was elected to his first four-year term in 2016 when he won Wisconsin, which this year is again being targeted as a swing state.
Green Bay moms
Godlewski introduced Amanda Chu, a married mother with three children who is employed at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and a Brown County supervisor in District 3.
Chu said the Green Bay Area Public School District, which opened the school year with all virtual learning, has provided flexibility for students.
“There’s like a certain platform where activities happen, and so as long as they engage on that within school hours – if we can’t make one of the meetings, they record it and we can catch up – so there’s some flexibility there,” she said. “And I don’t know what we’d do if there wasn’t that.”
However, Chu said it can be difficult for her child in first grade to stay engaged while watching a teacher on a screen.
Erin Beres, also a married mother with three children, said she had to a quit a banking job to be able to take care of a son with autism attending school in-person every other day in De Pere.
“When they said Ty would go back to school two days, but home for three, I had to quit my job,” she said.
Beres said she went back to work a year and a half ago.
She also said she doesn’t have the skills of a special education teacher to help her son when he learns from home.
“I think that makes it a little difficult for him, for me, for my husband, who did the teaching (earlier this year), because he was home and I wasn’t,” she said. “We did our best, and will continue to do so, but it’s not perfect.”
Jill Biden, who blamed the Trump Administration for the pandemic continuing in America, said her husband has a plan on how to deal with COVID-19.
“If this administration had done a better job, it didn’t have to be this way,” she said. “As soon as we get this under control, you can get back to work and Ty can get back to school.”
Godlewski, a Democrat, also questioned where the leadership is from the White House to deal with the pandemic.
“I mean, it’s six months later, and we still do not have a united plan for the United States,” she said. “We’re competing with Minnesota and Iowa and Michigan for supplies. And then when it comes to our schools, the only option that the White House has given is to take away funding (if schools aren’t opened).”