OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited the metro Tuesday as part of his “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar” campaign. 

Sec. Cardona was greeted by Federal Communications Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Democratic Johnson County Board of Commissioners Chair Mike Kelly.

He talked about getting more Wi-Fi connections for families that need it in Johnson County, but the visit comes as COVID cases are rising across the country.

Blue Valley Schools Superintendent Tonya Merrigan, Olathe Schools Superintendent Brent Yeager, and Shawnee Mission Schools Superintendent Michelle Hubbard were all in attendance.

All three of them did not want to talk about how their districts are handling the rise in cases.

“Keep schools open, communicate regularly and make sure that you’re communicating the importance of having students come in regularly,” Secretary Cardona said when asked after the roundtable what recommendations he has for the three superintendents on how they should handle the rise in cases.

“Let the parents know what you’re doing to keep the students safe and then maintain those same protocols that you had at the height of the pandemic.”

Earlier in the day, FOX4 spoke with Dr. Dana Hawkinson of the University of Kansas Health System. Hawkinson says even though masking isn’t required at school or the workplace, you can always wear one.

“We know that there are some issues where some people for one reason or another may not want to wear a mask. It’s difficult to communicate, those communication barriers,” he said.

FOX4 also asked Dr. Hawkinson whether school districts should recommend their kids wear masks.

“I would say that we would always recommend that,” he said. “I think a recommendation is one thing. Mandatory, you know, making it a mandate is different.”

“Those are decisions that are made at the local level, and I know that superintendents work with the health directors in their community to make those decisions, so I’ll leave those decisions to them,” Secretary Cardona said when asked whether he would recommend school districts have their kids wear masks again.

Dr. Hawkinson says COVID hospitalizations have doubled in the past two weeks at the health system, but they’ve only gone from seven to 14, nowhere near the number hospitalizations they had at the height of the pandemic.