First lady Jill Biden, new Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tour elementary school in Meriden

New Haven

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s a moment of pride for Connecticut’s Dr. Miguel Cardona. The newly-minted U.S. Education Secretary returned to his hometown of Meriden on Wednesday. He was joined by first lady Dr. Jill Biden for a tour of Benjamin Franklin School.

WATCH: Good Morning America March 4 interview with Dr. Miguel Cardona

On the same day, Governor Ned Lamont appointed Charlene Russell-Tucker as the new acting commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education.

This district has been in-person learning amid the COVID pandemic since August 2020. Secretary Cardona credits mitigation strategies like masks and a COVID teaching handbook they created, which is now a model for the state and nation.

RELATED: ‘Honor of my life’: Newly appointed Sec. of Education Cardona gives News 8 exclusive interview after being sworn in

Cardona and Biden are both educators pushing for safe in-person learning around the country.
Both touting the American Rescue plan and its passage as the way.

“As a former teacher, principal, I know the disruption that causes when you have to go from in-person on one day to fully remote another day knowing that many of your students don’t have access to laptops, they don’t have access to technology,” said Cardona. “They don’t have access to school.”

Reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority of the Biden administration.

During their visit to the school, Cardona and Biden spoke with a kindergarten teacher about COVID mitigation strategies, as well as a second-grade teacher about her experience with going back to in-person learning. The assistant principal and senior director of student support and special education also spoke with Biden and Cardona about the importance of special education.

The first lady said in-person learning is the best way for children to learn, “But we just know that we have to get back safely. And I think that once we get our teachers vaccinated and we get the American rescue plan passed so that schools like this can have the money to be back safely.”

After, first lady Biden and Secretary Cardona hopped on a plane and headed to a middle school in Pennsylvania.

WATCH: First lady Jill Biden, Dr. Miguel Cardona visit students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School

Secretary Cardona told News 8 that Connecticut will always be his home. He plans to have a place down in Washington D.C. and will commute. He wants to have face-to-face meetings with staff and create the culture in D.C. for in-person learning around the nation.

“To Connecticut students — I’m one of you,” Dr. Cardona said. “I told students in Meriden before I left: My story is your story. I’ve been blessed with fortune and good people around me and I’ve learned a lot from so many wonderful educators.”

Dr. Cardona was sworn in as 12th Secretary of Education Tuesday evening.

WATCH: Gov. Lamont, Dr. Miguel Cardona deliver remarks following Meriden school visit

“I can guarantee you, first lady, that our Secretary of Education is going to get the job done because he got the job done for the kids here in the state of Connecticut,” added Gov. Ned Lamont Wednesday.

WATCH: First lady Jill Biden delivers remarks following Meriden school visit

On the first full day of the job, Dr. Cardona released a statement for parents and students, saying in part, “Our first priority is to return students to the classroom for in-person learning, but we know there’s more work to be done once we’ve achieved that goal. We’re also working toward building better career pathways, making college more affordable, ensuring all students have access to high-quality schools.”

Ninety-nine percent of Connecticut schools now offer in-person learning. In Meriden, there are about 200 students still learning remotely. All will be back in the classroom by March 15.

The last time the Silver City had a political visitor was in 1952 when President Harry Truman came during his campaign.

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