TAMPA, Fla. - Florida’s public school students will not set foot back on campus before summer. Students in grades K-12 will continue with distance learning through the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Governor Ron DeSantis made that announcement during a press conference on Saturday.
Students have already been out of class for a month. The governor closed all campuses as of March 16, when Florida was only seeing a handful of new coronavirus cases per day.
Now, after over 25,000 cases and more than 700 deaths, the state’s curve appears as though it might be starting to flatten. But experts warn against ending the social distancing efforts too soon, which means students will not be able to return to class.
Earlier this week, Florida’s teacher's union called on the governor to keep campuses closed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, saying the coronavirus outbreak “presents a threat we cannot control.”
Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said in a letter to the governor that teachers have “risen to the challenge” of conducting their classes online since campuses closed last month and there is no reason to reopen them until the virus is under control.
"This is a new way to learn and a new way to engage. Due to COVID-19, as we move forward the way that we offer educational practices will be changed as well," Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said.
Gov. DeSantis had already said the state's standardized tests and school evaluations would be canceled for this year, and parents would have the option of requesting that students repeat their current grade, if necessary.
It was not immediately clear what the order would mean for end-of year events like graduations. Some counties have already begun inviting ideas to see what students and their families would prefer, assuming that the ban on mass gatherings remains in place next month.
Many districts across the Bay Area, including Hillsborough County Schools, are now looking at new plans for graduation. Davis says the district has already reserved the fairgrounds in July for possible graduation.
"We understand how hard they have worked for the last 13 years to be able to celebrate in this special moment, but as Superintendent of schools I am committed to make certain that they are offered a traditional graduation," Davis said.
Florida has more than 4,500 public schools serving 2.7 million children. They employ 180,000 teachers.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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