VP Pence, White House leaders hold school reopening roundtable at Marian University

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Vice President Mike Pence joined White House leaders, Gov. Eric Holcomb and higher education leaders gathered for a roundtable discussion at Marian University Friday afternoon. The discussion was aimed at the safe reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There were a little more than 25 socially distanced seats in the audience.

Some of the invited guests said the roundtable discussion with Pence and other leaders was informative, insightful and eye-opening.​

“It was encouraging to see people at the table talking about solutions and methods and innovation,” said Marian University President Daniel Elsener.

During the roundtable discussion Pence, along with members of the White House coronavirus task force, championed the safe reopening of schools during the pandemic.​

“Opening up our schools again is the best thing for our kids,” said Pence. “It’s also the best thing for working families.”

“Wearing a mask, not going to a bar, not creating indoor social gathering experiences so that all of the state like Indiana can return their students and their teachers back to school,” said White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

“We have confirmed of late that fact that students fall behind dramatically in education. One study estimates that due to school closures last spring, the average student is going to begin this year roughly 35% behind in reading, compared to a typical year and 50% behind in math,” said Pence.

Pence said the Trump administration has already secured $30 billion for both K-12 and higher education. Marian University got some of that money​.

​President Donald Trump has requested another $105 billion in education funding as part of the next coronavirus relief bill.​

​”That’s also including higher education. There’s 30 billion. We received some of that to help reimburse our students for their time away from campus,” said Elsener.

​Pence also said they’ve worked with several universities in Indiana on reopening. ​

At Marian University classrooms will be cleaned every day, school officials said.​

There will also be an online version of each course offered. So, if a student catches COVID-19, professors can immediately switch that student’s coursework to online.​

“I am confident school leaders here in Indiana can pivot and do what it takes to keep everyone safe.,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

​DeVos stressed working together is key. She said how schools reopen depends on cooperation among local leaders, schools and parents.

“Kids aren’t meant to be alone. They’re social, they need to be together with other students,” she said. “Parents and their children can’t be held captive to others fears or agendas.”