After Boston schools shift to fully remote learning, Trump and Biden weigh in on reopening classrooms

"We can’t keep this country closed," President Trump said. "This is a massive country with a massive economy."

–The Associated Press

President Donald Trump held steady in his position for reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic while debating former Vice President Joe Biden Thursday night, even as Boston Public Schools shifted to a fully-remote learning model.

The decision this week to hold all of the district’s classes virtually as the citywide positivity rate hit 5.7 percent was referenced as the two sparred in the final presidential debate before the Nov. 3 election.

“You’ve demanded schools open in person and insist they can do it safely, but just yesterday Boston became the latest city to move its public school system entirely online after a coronavirus spike,” moderator Kristen Welker said to Trump. “What is your message to parents who worry that sending their children to school will endanger not only their kids but also their teachers and families?”

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The president, who has long pushed for the country to reopen its classrooms and economy during the health crisis, said he still wants schools to reopen.

“We have to open our country,” Trump said. “We’re not going to have a country — you can’t do this, we can’t keep this country closed. This is a massive country with a massive economy. People are losing their jobs.”

He added later, “If you go and look at what’s happened to New York, it’s a ghost town…These are businesses that are dying, Joe.”

Biden said lawmakers must provide resources for reopening the country safely.

“We ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We ought to be able to safely open, but they need resources to open,” Biden said. “You need to be able to, for example, if you’re going to open a business, have social distancing within the business. If you’re a restaurant, you need to have plexiglass dividers so people cannot infect one another. You need to be in a position where you can take testing rapidly and know whether a person is in fact infected. You need to be able to trace. You need to be able to provide all the resources needed to do this.”

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and school officials announced Wednesday that school buildings would close until public health metrics used to track the virus declined.

The vast majority of students have attended classes remotely since the school year began on Sept. 21, although classrooms had remained open for the district’s highest-needs students until Thursday.

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