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DeSantis cancels school testing, orders all Florida higher ed online through end of semester

Megan Holmes

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday evening in a press conference that all Florida colleges and universities would move online through the end of the year. After four students at the University of Florida tested positive for Covid-19, all higher education institutions, many of which had gone online for the month of March, will go fully online.

The order includes University of South Florida, which is currently on spring break and had previously announced plans to transition to all remote instruction through at least April 5. USF will provide remote instruction for the duration of the spring semester, the university said in a news release.

USF’s spring 2020 commencement ceremonies scheduled for May will be postponed until further notice.  “USF recognizes that commencement is a vital element of the university community and an important milestone in the lives of students and their families. USF is working diligently to develop creative alternative solutions, including the possibility of expanding August ceremonies to include spring graduates,” the news release said.

DeSantis also announced that remaining testing for school readiness, voluntary pre-kindergarten and K-12 schools will be cancelled for the year. Requirements for graduation, course grade and course credit will be evaluated as if those tests did not exist.

In addition, the K-12 school grading system, which gives each school a letter grade based on test results, will not be calculated this year and turnaround schools like Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg will continue in their current status next year.

In order to keep students connected with the classroom, unspent funds from various allocations are directed to go toward purchasing digital devices and establishing internet connections for low-income students.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has been given authority to reduce the required hours of instruction. Corcoran, who also spoke at the press conference, said that K-12 schools will be remaining off-campus until April 15. Four school districts, in Duval, Sumter, Collier and Union counties – which had spring break last week – will begin online education starting Monday, March 23. All schools will follow this process through April 15.

DeSantis also explained updated Covid-19 testing eligibility guidelines and previewed the announcement of drive-thru clinics in Broward County. DeSantis urged healthy, non-symptomatic people not to attempt to be tested, calling those tests a waste of resources. According to DeSantis, all elderly people with symptoms of Covid-19 are eligible to be tested. People with underlying medical condition, regardless of age, with COVID-19 symptoms, are eligible to be tested. People hospitalized with pneumonia of unknown cause, regardless of travel or interactions, are eligible to be tested.

For more information, visit the Florida Department of Health website here. 

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