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First Lady, new U.S. education secretary visit Meriden elementary school

"This has certainly been a love fest," First Lady Dr. Jill Biden said after the visit.

MERIDEN, Conn. — It was a visit that students and teachers at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School will remember for many years to come.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and the new U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona visited the school Wednesday morning - the day after the Meriden-native Cardona was sworn in to lead the nation's Department of Education.

"It’s so nice to be here. I’m Jill. Hi,” FLOTUS said when she introduced herself to socially distanced and masked kindergarten students who were practicing their writing.

The student's T-shirts noted their year of graduation: 2037.

Cardona, who well-known and loved at the school, fist-pumped some students before walking around the classroom.

RELATED: Senate confirms Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education

As the students tittered and chattered, their teacher told FLOTUS and Cardona that the kids have been back in school since August and that she always has extra masks on hand to provide to students.

Another stop at the school included meeting with Ms. Sulivan, who welcomed the first lady and Cardona onto the mat in a sensory classroom that focused on social and emotional learning.

“Being at home and being on the computer doesn’t access this,” Cardona said about the surroundings, which contained play mats, yoga balls, monkey bars, and a large chart with a set of color-coded moods.

“Have you seen the anxiety in children increasing?” because of the pandemic, FLOTUS asked. “Children have felt unsafe at times. Ensuring they feel safe .... having access to their routine ... has helped.”

Ms. Sullivan said the answer yes.

RELATED: Excitement building in Meriden for First Lady, Education Secretary visit

At a press conference after the visit, Dr. Biden said returning students and teachers to full-time, in-person learning is important to her and her husband's administration.

She said that she recently asked her own students how they were coping with remote learning.

“Teachers want to be back. We want to be back. Last week I said to my students, ‘hey guys how are you doing?’ And they said ‘Dr. B, We’re doing OK, but we can’t wait to be back to the classroom.’”

She continued: “Once we get the teachers vaccinated and once we get the American Rescue Plan passed - the biggest thing is we’re going to do this together.”

Cardona has been a staunch supporter of getting school children back in physical classrooms.

On Wednesday, he said it was good to be home and that the Department of Education's "top priority" is getting teachers vaccinated.

“We must continue to reopen America’s schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible," he said. "The president recognizes this which is why he took bold action yesterday to get teachers and school staff vaccinated quickly."

He added: “Across the country, future Lin-Manuel Mirandas are sitting at home instead of going to drama club.”

President Joe Biden has pledged to reopen most schools by May, within his first 100 days in office, and is pushing Congress to approve another $170 billion in education funding as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

After leaving Meriden, Dr. Biden and Dr. Cardona will head to Waterford, Pennsylvania.

RELATED: Biden to states: Prioritize vaccinating teachers

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