As states across the country grapple with reopening schools for the upcoming fall semester amid the ongoing coronavirus, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said children in her state would “definitely be in the classroom.”

During a Wednesday interview on FNC’s “Fox & Friends,” Noem stressed the importance of children returning to school, saying it is “better for them” to have hot meals and be prepared for success in life.

“The science is clear: Our kids need to be in school. It’s better for them,” Noem advised. “We’ve got a lot of kids that haven’t checked in since this virus hit. It’s really our most vulnerable population that needs to be back in those classrooms.”

Host Ainsley Earhardt asked, “When will governors — when will you all make decisions? I’m sure … each governor is going to have their own timeline, but when are you going to say a definite?”

“Well, for us, our kids are going back to school on time,” Noem replied.

Earhardt clarified, “Definitely?”

“Definitely,” the governor said. “They will definitely be in the classroom. We have proven that distance learning is not as effective as being in the classroom. We think that kids have only achieved about 70 percent of the learning that they could have, had they been in school. And then also, we have a lot of kids that don’t have a stable home environment. They don’t have parents that are really being responsible to make sure that they’re learning. Those are the kids that are getting hurt the most. And in South Dakota, in some districts, it’s up to 30 percent of the children.”

“So they need to be there in the classroom where these teachers and administrators can see how they’re doing, look at them, give them a hot meal,” Noem continued. “Make sure that we’re taking care of them. And then make sure that every single child, at this important time in their life — that they have the opportunity to learn so they can be successful for the rest of their life.”

Noem was asked if the children will be required to wear masks and some of the plans for reopening. She said she will not be mandating masks and will leave it up to the school districts to make the call on masks.

“You know, every school district is going to make a different decision that works for their facilities, for their children. They’re going to be back in school,” Noem stated. “As far as masks, I am not mandating any masks at the state level. You know, it certainly would be challenging for a child to keep a mask on for seven-eight hours a day, even while I’ve sat with a child that had one on five or 10 minutes is very difficult for them. And they’re constantly touching it, taking it off, dropping it on the floor. Those all increase rates of infection, and it’s certainly not an environment that is going to help them stay safe. So, I think that every school district is approaching it differently and telling parents if your children want to wear masks they can, but we’re not going to make them.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent

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