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Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos' Bedford Visit Cut Short By New COVID-19 Case

Sarah Gibson / NHPR

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited New Hampshire on Friday to meet with school leaders, teachers and students in Bedford, but her visit was curtailed by a newly confirmed COVID-19 case in the district.

DeVos had planned to visit both Riddle Brook Elementary School and McKelvie Intermediate School, but her team cancelled the McKelvie stop after learning a teacher had recently tested positive for COVID-19.

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Speaking to press after a roundtable at Riddle Brook, DeVos praised the Bedford school district for coming up with a plan that considered concerns from all angles, including parents.

DeVos and other members of the Trump administration have praised New Hampshire and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut for their handling of pandemic education since statewide school closures in March.

But DeVos, a major advocate for charter schools, private school vouchers, and school choice, said not every district is handling pandemic education well.

“There’s more evidence today than six months ago that giving families and parents and children more choices about what their education looks like is an even greater imperative,” she said.

When asked about the challenges ahead for schools to enforce mask wearing and six feet of social distance in the winter, DeVos stressed that those guidelines are recommendations, not rules.

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“Those are things that each school building and each school district needs to really address based on their own unique circumstances,” she said. “There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to questions like this.”

Democrats - including gubernatorial candidate Dan Feltes - gathered to protest DeVos' visit. The Feltes campaign criticized DeVos' approach to public education and accused Gov. Chris Sununu of "backing the DeVos anti-public education agenda."

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the state was honored she came to New Hampshire “to highlight and recognize the work here in Bedford, but really recognizing the work across the state for our school leaders, teachers, families and students working together collaboratively.”

Find more stories in NHPR's COVID & The Classroom series here. Email us tips and questions about what you’re seeing, or photos of remote learning, to education@nhpr.org