Rob Mitchell, a Spanish teacher from Pittsburgh, said he believes classrooms in the state would be more prepared to reopen if Joe Biden's plan for schools would have been adopted instead of President Donald Trump's proposal.

Mitchell was part of a webinar on Tuesday in which Pittsburgh-area teachers talked about school plans and their concerns with Biden's wife, Jill, who has been an educator for 36 years.

"I can only imagine where we'd be now if we had been implementing Joe Biden's plan all along," Mitchell said.

Jill Biden agreed with him, stating that her husband knows how important it is to have students return to the classroom, but to do that safely.

"Right now, if my husband, Joe, were president, we would have a strategic plan," Jill Biden said. "He would have given emergency funding to the schools. We would have a secretary of education who could give us direction and help guide us back into the classrooms. He would keep our teachers and our students safe."

Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers Local 400, moderated the conversation.

She spoke in support of Joe Biden and his plan to reopen, which features closing the COVID-19-induced education equity gap, empowering local decision making and bolstering the nation's supply of personal protective equipment.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. also participated in the Zoom call and voiced his support for Joe Biden.

"There's no comparison between these two candidates on so many issues, whether it's health care, jobs or the response to the virus," Casey said.

He added that he has "great confidence" in Joe Biden and his ability to lead as well as his plan to reopen schools.

Other educators who shared their thoughts were Pittsburgh physical education teacher Scott Mandarino and Beaver Area High School government and history teacher Laura O'Rorke.

"I don't have a problem going back to work as long as the infection rates are low, schools have the appropriate public health safeguards and the adequate resources to implement those safeguards," Mandarino said.

What he appreciated most about Joe Biden's plan for reopening was the empowerment of local school districts.

O'Rorke raised a concern about the lack of respect for teachers.

"I have to question the respect level when being asked to go back to the classroom in the middle of a pandemic without a proper plan in place - like the one that I think Vice President Joe Biden has laid out and that I hope we get to implement," O'Rorke said.

Jill Biden assured those participating that if her husband becomes the 46th president, he will have teachers' interests in mind, and she does as well.

"When you see Joe Biden take that oath of office on inauguration day and you look to his left, standing right beside him will be an educator, and educators will have a seat at the table," Jill Biden said. 

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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