WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona visited his home state of Connecticut on Friday to help kick off the school year.

Cardona visited students and staff at the Dual Language International School on Friday morning. Getting kids back into the classroom safely and maintaining continuity of learning amid the pandemic has been Cardona’s top priority since joining President Joe Biden’s cabinet.

Waterbury received $89 million in federal relief money. Some went to hiring school counselors in all the elementary schools and getting computers for every child in the district. There are 18,500 students enrolled in the city.

The superintendent says they went from 50 percent attendance during COVID to 100 percent this year. Masks and vaccinations are not an issue in Waterbury despite the pushback around the country and in some districts in CT.

“I support every effort to get everyone in front of, it has been approved by the FDA,” Cardona said.

Waterbury Superintendent of Schools Dr. Verna Ruffin says she was at a recent Cheshire event where Umask our Kids CT parents protested. That scene has not played out in Waterbury.

“Waterbury understands we are in a pandemic and we are doing the very best that we can to protect the children and our staff that masks are not something that anyone did to anyone. It’s a measure to try to keep everyone safe,” said Dr. Verna Ruffin, Waterbury School Superintendent.

Cardona says his agency can’t mandate masks or COVID vaccine as local control guides policy.

“I don’t have to keep pointing out to those state’s where children are in the hospitals, ICU beds, they’re running out of them with children,” Cardona said.

Lamont has mandated shots for staff or weekly testing to keep classrooms clear of an outbreak.

“Parents are more confident that they can send their kids to school safely today than they were last year,” Lamont said.

Cardona was Connecticut’s Education Commissioner under Governor Ned Lamont.