Florida’s elementary and secondary campuses will not reopen this school year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on April 18.
Instead, students and teachers will continue with the distance learning model, which began in March. That approach began as a way to limit the potential spread of coronavirus disease-2019. (COVID-19).
The national death toll for the pandemic reached 37,202 as of April 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The economic meltdown has resulted in the loss of more than 22 million American jobs, according to national reports.
In explaining why he decided to close school campuses, DeSantis said “We spoke with a lot of folks throughout the state.
“There was some differing opinions. Some parents were not interested in their kids going back. Some others — it’s been tough around the house, they would have liked to have seen them go back,” the governor said, during a news conference that was carried live on WTSP 10 News.
“We’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning. It’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year, we felt that was the best decision to go forward,” he said.
DeSantis said he asked if there would be a huge academic benefit of reopening schools, but most people didn’t think so.
“I think the last thing you want to do is force everyone in school and have half the kids not show up, because the parents didn’t want (it) — their teachers didn’t want to do it.
“It was an easier decision for me to make, knowing that we’ve done so well with the distance learning,” DeSantis said.
In a YouTube video posted on the Pasco County Schools’ website, Superintendent Kurt Browning said the district’s campuses will remain closed, but that distance learning will continue through May 27.
Browning said he agreed with DeSantis regarding the closure of campuses.
“Due to the potential health and safety risks, I could not in good conscience direct our students, teachers and staff to return in this environment,” the superintendent said.
In regards to distance learning, Browning said: “Most of our teachers and students have made tremendous progress. They have acclimated to our new normal with creativity and energy.”
He acknowledged that the district continues “to work with a very small number of students who have not yet engaged.”
Browning added that “student feeding days will continue on Tuesdays.”
The numbers are increasing each week, but the district’s food and nutrition staff, and army of volunteers are getting the job done, Browning said.
He also touched on the topics of graduations and proms.
“These are once in a lifetime experiences, and we know how important they are. We remain hopeful, and at the same time, we are weighing our options.
“We still have several weeks to make sure that our seniors have a graduation that is memorable and meaningful,” Browning said.
He added: “We know many students and teachers have a need to retrieve their belongings form school. When we left for Spring Break more than a month ago, I’m sure there were many personal belongings left in lockers and desks and cabinets. We know it’s important that you have an opportunity to retrieve your things, but it must be done safely.
“Your school will inform you about their specific plan, soon,” Browning said.
Hillsborough County public schools announced the extended closure on its website, and noted its eLearning will continue through May 29.
“We know you have many questions about your student’s grades, as well as activities and events planned during the fourth quarter. We will be providing you additional details in the coming days, including information regarding graduation ceremonies,” according to the website.
The district also announced that all May graduations will be canceled, but that it has worked with the Florida State Fairgrounds to secure alternate dates in July.
“We know this is heartbreaking for students. Especially our seniors. All extracurricular activities will be canceled during this timeframe. But, we have worked with select seniors, school-based leaders and district staff to develop multiple options for school graduations.”
In addition to announcing the campus closures, DeSantis also announced that a task force will begin work this week to “develop a three-stage approach to reopening the state: short-term, medium-term and long-term.”
The task force will meet telephonically and is expected to have its recommendations for short-term steps to DeSantis by April 24.
“Then, once we get that in place, they’re going to look to the medium- and long-term strategies,” the governor said, noting the task force will include small business owners, industry representatives and elected officials, including Wilton Simpson, incoming president of the Florida Senate, and Chris Sprowls, incoming speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
DeSantis also gave updates on Florida’s testing efforts, and announced that the state would begin publicly reporting the names of nursing homes and long-term care facilities that have reported cases of COVID-19.
Published April 22, 2020