Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visit Apex's Thales Academy

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence visits Thales Academy, Biotech
Vice President Mike Pence visits Thales Academy, BiotechVice President Mike Pence visits RTP facility taking part in COVID-19 vaccine trials

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- After visiting Apex's Thales Academy, Vice President Mike Pence joined in a Wednesday afternoon round table discussion on Operation Warp Speed at NC Biotech in the Research Triangle Park.

The round table discussion surrounded the nation's $10 billion effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that would be able to create and distribute three hundred million doses by the end of the year and have it distributed as early as Jan. 1.

"We're examining the data as they see clinical trials happen in real-time. Traditionally, you do a Phase 1 clinical trial, you submit the data, it's reviewed by the FDA. Then Phase 2, then Phase 3. Now, because of the urgency that Trump put behind this, the FDA and its thousands of employees have been evaluating the data in real-time as it comes in," Pence said.

Pence later went on to tell ABC11, both he and President Trump plan to be at the Republican National Convention on Aug. 24.

In an email sent Monday, school officials said Pence will visit Thales Academy K-5 to see how school choice works and to advocate for its further implementation.

The private school opted to open schools for in-person instruction July 20 along with virtual learning. Days after opening a staff member in training tested positive for COVID-19 at the school's Raleigh campus.

Pence departed RDU around 12:30 p.m. with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Dr. Stephen Hahn, Rep. Richard Hudson, Rep. David Rouzer and Rep. Mark Walker.


Vice President Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos arrive at RDU

He first visited Thales Academy, a school founded by businessman and prominent GOP donor Robert Luddy. Luddy has invited and hosted other political dignitaries on campuses in years past.

RELATED: Thales Academy welcomes students back to the classroom

During his visit, Pence stopped in a classroom to take part in a small roundtable to discuss safely reopening schools. Thales Academy is offering in-person instruction, which has found support from the White House.

While he and DeVos were at the school, the secretary of education announced, via news release, that more than $180 million in new grant funding will be awarded to 11 states "rethinking education to better serve students during the COVID-19 pandemic."

North Carolina is one of the states. Other awardees include Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

The awards range from $6 million to $20 million.

The Department of Education announced the Rethink K-12 Education Models (REM) grant competition in April 2020, inviting any state educational agency to apply.

Specifically, it called for projects to provide families with:

  • Microgrants, so that states can ensure families have access to the technology and services to advance learning remotely
  • Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students can access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in their assigned setting
  • New, field-initiated models for providing remote education to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives (absolute priority 3

After his trip to Thales Academy, Pence went to NC Biotech at Research Triangle Park, where he met with M3-Wake Research.

"All of us at Wake Research are excited that Vice President Pence is visiting Research Triangle tomorrow and meeting with the M3-Wake Research team. Hopefully, his visit will help bring additional national attention and recognition to all of the great work that so many medical, science, and research companies are doing here, including Wake Research, as we commence the nation's first Phase III clinical trials of a COVID vaccine. The Research Triangle is the national epicenter of medical and biotech research and we at Wake Research are honored to be a part of this community and the global effort to find a cure for COVID and put an end to this pandemic as soon as possible," said Dr. Ella Grach, CEO of M3-Wake Research.

The company is currently conducting COVID-19 clinical research trials in Raleigh and Fayetteville, as well as cities in five other states. During the visit, NC Biotech will be closed to staff and the public.

Following the roundtable, Pence spoke with ABC11's Jonah Kaplan in a one-on-one interview.

WATCH: ABC11's Jonah Kaplan speaks with Vice President Mike Pence

ABC11's Jonah Kaplan speaks one-on-one with Vice President Mike Pence


On Monday, President Trump toured the RTP FUJIFILM facility working on a COVID-19 vaccine.

RELATED: President Trump tours RTP FUJIFILM facility working on COVID-19 vaccine