Education Department Creates Task Force to Help Parents, Schools Respond to Coronavirus

February 28, 2020 Updated: February 29, 2020

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Thursday that her department is assembling a task force to respond to the potential impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on American schools.

DeVos made the announcement during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on President Donald Trump’s proposed education budget for fiscal year 2021. When asked by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) if there is any coordination between the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would allow parents and schools to obtain the resources and information they need, DeVos responded that a task force has been set up.

It was revealed during the hearing that the task force would be led by Mick Zais, the deputy secretary of education.

“I’ve convened a task force within the Department and have asked my Deputy Secretary Mick Zais to head that task force to ensure we have our continuance policies and every plan in place for work in and through the Department,” DeVos said.

“We continue to work with the other agencies across government to ensure that we are prepared to respond and react and do as we should,” she told the lawmakers.

In the wake of more COVID-19 cases in the United States, the CDC is urging parents to begin preparing for what might happen if COVID-19 worsens. K-12 schools across the country are being advised to develop plans for dismissals and closures, as well as moving their courses online.

“You should think about what you would do for childcare if schools or day cares close,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a Feb. 26 telebriefing. “I had a conversation with my family over breakfast this morning and I told my children that while I didn’t think that they were at risk right now, we as a family need to be preparing for significant disruption of our lives.”

“You should ask your children’s school about their plans for school dismissals or school closures,” she said. “Ask if there are plans for teleschool.”

Earlier this week, the president said he agreed that American schools should be ready for a worse scenario.

“Every aspect of our society should be prepared,” said Trump at a White House press conference. “I think schools should be preparing and get ready, just in case. The words are ‘just in case.’ We don’t think we’re going to be there. We don’t think we’re going to be anywhere close.”