GARLAND, Texas – A prominent supporter of reopening schools brought her message to North Texas.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited a charter high school in Garland Thursday morning. She participated in a roundtable discussion with students, parents, teachers and school officials to learn more about the opportunities and challenges they faced during the pandemic.Her visit came as the COVID-19 risk level in Dallas County has been elevated back to red, which is the highest. And in Tarrant County, the upward trend prompted the public health director to recommend students return to virtual-only learning.

DeVos was asked about that recommendation and weighed-in on other COVDI-19 related topics.

“The efficacy of distant learning, it really does very much depends on how the student does with it,” she said. “Much depends on the actual quality of the programs and curriculum.”

DeVos says some $13 billion in CARES Act funding has been provided to K-12 grade schools since the pandemic started. She said her office is advocating for additional resources.

Two days ago, the Tarrant County health director recommended a return to virtual-only learning after a rise in COVID-19 cases. DeVos was asked about that recommendation.

“As far as particular decisions based on the COVID realities in each community, those are decisions best made by the local folks here,” she said.

On Wednesday, Dallas County reverted back to the highest COVID-19 risk level based on rising hospitalizations and ER visits.

Dallas ISD plans to continue virtual and in-person learning options, which Superintendent Michael Hinojosa talked about at a school conference.

“We all have to have the support of our staff, our board and the community when we’re trying to benefit the students,” he said.

The district says it’s committed to following extensive safety protocols to help keep students and staff safe.

The education secretary says school districts need to remain flexible.

“We’ve been very clear all along that these are local decisions based on the local realities,” DeVos said. “I think the key is that kids have the opportunity to learn full time.”

A spokesperson for Garland ISD says the district will continue to offer virtual and in-person learning options. Less than half of all students have returned to campus. The district is asking students to continue to self-screen, wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

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