ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida students will not return to school for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Governor Ron DeSantis.
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The governor announced the decision to keep K-12 schools closed for the rest of the year at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
DeSantis said he realizes that online schooling is not ideal, but given where students and educators are during the school year and the barriers presented by the ongoing pandemic, he thinks that training continuous remote is the best option currently.
The governor also said he received mixed comments from parents about the idea that their children would go back to school in May. Since many Florida families have already adapted to distance education in the past few weeks, DeSantis said it didn’t seem like there would be a huge benefit in sending students back to school for be abandoned for the summer in a few weeks.
“The last thing you want to do is force everyone into school and see half the kids because their parents didn’t want – their teachers didn’t want to,” said DeSantis. “It was an easier decision for me to make distance learning work.”
DeSantis mentioned earlier this month and again on Saturday that he was concerned about keeping students out of school for the long term because of the effects it could have on their mental health.
“I am sensitive – many of our children have not seen friends in a while. It has a social cost and I want to find a way to overcome it. (In) the next phase, the kids will have more to do, ”said DeSantis.
Before the announcement, all schools were closed until the end of April.
Earlier this month, some school districts announced backup plans for the 2020 graduation ceremonies, including potential dates until July. It is unclear whether these dates will be reconsidered with the extended school closings.
Also on Saturday, DeSantis said it plans to announce on Monday the members of a task force that will be tasked with developing a three-phase approach to reopening the state. They will meet by telephone for the first time next week, said the governor.
The governor’s announcements came two days after President Donald Trump released his three-phase plan to reopen businesses across the country.
To begin the process, a region must first experience 14 consecutive days of decline in COVID-19 instances. Then the first phase, which includes reopening gymnasiums and restaurants while maintaining social distance, can begin. Those who are most at risk of contracting life-threatening respiratory disease should stay home. Schools would also remain closed and visits to hospitals and assisted living facilities would be suspended.
If the area does not see another increase in cases, it can proceed to phase two. This means relaxing the guidelines on social restrictions to no group of more than 50 people instead of the current 10. Employees should still telecommute if possible, but schools, camps and bars may reopen.
Phase three is what most probably call the new standard. Employees could return to the office, people at risk could venture further, and large sites could operate with a few minor stipulations.
The president asked governors and other local leaders to take responsibility for implementing this approach rather than releasing a national response that would ignore the varying degrees of COVID-19 instances across the country.
When last verified, there were more than 25,000 COVID-19 cases and 740 Florida-related coronavirus deaths reported throughout the state.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 6 and ClickOrlando.com for updates.
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