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Education Secretary Cardona says there should be "no need" for hybrid or remote learning after kids are vaccinated

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Tuesday that it "wasn't a mistake" to keep schools closed for as long as they were throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue that has become one of the biggest flashpoints in the U.S.

In an interview with "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan, Cardona said that communities have all the tools they need going forward to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and there should be "no need" for remote or hybrid learning. 

"We should be controlling community spread and the places that are not doing it well, we're seeing it," Cardona said. "But going back to that question more globally, it's really important to note that every community is a little bit different." 

Cardona said parents across the country are "breathing that sigh of relief" as vaccinations have started for children ages 5-11. 

"We are thrilled. We know we've been waiting, collectively holding our breath," Cardona said. 

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Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is interviewed by "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan.  CBS News

"We know that in this rollout for the younger students, it's really important, more so than ever before, that our schools connect with our pediatricians, with our children's hospitals so that our medical experts are providing the information," Cardona said. 

According to CDC data, at least 400,000 5 to 11 year olds have received one dose of the vaccine since it was approved last week for emergency use authorization. 

Cardona said "the younger they are, the more hesitancy there will be " when asked about vaccine hesitancy among younger students. He added that it's the Department of Education's role to communicate effectively to parents that the vaccination "is the best thing they can do to protect their children." 

Cardona also touched on the contentious school board meetings that have been taking place around the country. Although school board  meetings have traditionally been centered around local issues, they lately have been engulfed in national hot-button topics centered around mask mandates.

Despite the threats of violence against some school board members, Cardona said he is confident that schools can remain a safe space for parents to engage in dialogue about their child's learning experience. 

"I am confident that our schools can be those places where we get those conversations, and we have different perspectives and we do it under one flag; we're all Americans here," said Cardona. "There is a lot of frustration. There are some folks, a very vocal minority that are not doing it in a way that's civil. But the reality is the vast majority across the country are willing to re-engage and have those conversations in a way that's meaningful," he continued. 

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Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is interviewed by "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. CBS News

Cardona also discussed reimagining the education system as a whole, specifically when it comes to summer learning for students. The pandemic disrupted more than a year of schooling for some, contributing to the high level of learning loss among minority and low-income students. According to NWEA data, Black, Latino, and low-income students showed slower progress in reading comprehension and math in the 2020-21 school year.

"Why do we go back to the same system that gives kids two months without engagement in the summer," asked Cardona. "We need to rethink that." 

Cardona noted that summer learning experiences will be critical moving forward as the country addresses achievement disparities among students. 

"I think about 70%of the influence on achievement gaps happens during the summer slide," Cardona said.

The American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law earlier this year, allocates billions in funding for summer and afterschool programs at the state and local level  to combat learning loss due to the pandemic. Specifically, there will be $8.45 billion available at the state level for summer and afterschool programs and $21.9 billion at the local level for summer and afterschool programs.

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