Governor Ron DeSantis Looks to “Fully Reopen” Florida’s Schools

Image by Ernie A. Stephens from Pixabay 

Governor Ron DeSantis has called for the reopening of Florida’s K-12 schools at “full capacity” in the fall. The Florida governor made the announcement on Thursday, June 11. DeSantis announced state recommendations for a return to on-campus instruction in the upcoming school year. In his announcement, DeSantis also made it clear that he is leaving it up to the local districts to decide how, when and if to reopen their schools. 

Also in attendance were school superintendents from Pinellas and Pasco counties, Mike Grego and Kurt Browning. SuperIntendent Grego is the incoming chair of the state superintendents association. Browning, the group’s current leader, said he was pleased with the plan’s two overriding principles of safety and academic achievement.

Pinellas is planning to conduct focus groups for community feedback on reopening, and plans to present its plan around July 14. In Hillsborough, district leaders have been working on multiple reopening scenarios. A draft plan calls for three approaches: All virtual instruction, a blended model in which students take turns attending classes on campus, and traditional school attendance with extensive disinfecting.

Hillsborough’s plan calls for at least $18 million in additional spending to clean school buildings, and far more if the district must purchase more buses for social distancing. Millions more would be spent on single-use, disposable masks for the staff and students.

DeSantis discussed how the state plans to use nearly $1 billion in federal CARES Act funds for education. Schools have 12 options for spending the money they receive, including using it for cleaning supplies and providing mental health services and supports.

The governor also had a plan for some of the flexible money in the program. That includes initiatives to bolster literacy instruction in pre-kindergarten through third grade, as well as programs to boost workforce training. DeSantis’ goal is to target the achievement gap and learning losses. 

The plan to reopen Florida’s schools calls for campuses to reopen at full capacity at the start of the academic school year in adherence with guidelines and recommendations from state, local and national health officials as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the plan will provide health and instructional recommendations for reopening Florida’s schools, aligned to the executive direction of Governor DeSantis, the Reopen Florida Task Force’s Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH).

You may find a copy of the state recommendations on the Florida Department of Education website.

Commissioner Corcoran also touted data showing that kids were at “extremely low-risk” for contracting or spreading COVID-19. Corcoran is a firm believer that kids spending time away from the classroom and not getting that face-to-face experience of learning actually does more harm than good. Districts and schools are encouraged to discuss a protocol for safely reopening their schools with local health departments and medical experts. 

The decision to reopen comes from receiving feedback from thousands of Floridians, including medical experts, community stakeholders, education leaders, and parents. The governor was also motivated by the need of ensuring all students receive a first-class education. Social distancing can only do so much for a student and their learning abilities. A proper classroom environment seems much more effective for the student’s concentration.

Since mid-March, Florida schools have been closed and distance learning has been adopted by teachers and students in order to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. This means teachers have taken to the Internet to help teach the class lesson and students have been logging in to the school student portal to be able to access the course, homework and attend roll calls for the class.

To read the Governor’s reopening plan, please visit Ron DeSantis’ website.