Categories: Know

Schools will continue to offer remote learning in the spring

Calling school closures due to Covid-19 “probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history” and the people advocating for them “modern-day flat earthers,” Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday that schools will remain open for in-person learning in the spring while continuing to offer families the option for virtual instruction.

“Today’s announcement doubles down on Florida’s commitment to our students and our parents,” he said at a press conference at a Kissimmee elementary school, his first in nearly a month. “Every parent in Florida can take that to the bank.”

Monday’s conference coincided with the release of a long-awaited update to the Department of Education’s emergency order on how education will be delivered in the spring semester. It is similar to the order issued in July that gave families the choice between remote or face-to-face learning and protected school district funding. However, one new addition to the order calls for parents to be notified if their student is struggling with virtual learning. Should that be the case, the child must return to school for in-person instruction unless the parent affirmatively opts out and says they want to remain virtual. 

“The data and the evidence is overwhelmingly clear: virtual learning is just not the same as being in person,” DeSantis said. 

He went on to reiterate previous statements that school-aged children aren’t the main drivers of the spread of the virus and that the long-term harm from not being in school far outweighs the benefits.

“The evidence has been remarkably clear since the spring that closing schools offers virtually nothing in terms of virus mitigation but imposes huge costs on our kids, on our parents and on our society,” he said, citing examples from countries like Sweden and Germany who all had “positive experiences” by keeping kids in school. “Schools are just in fact a safe place for these kids with this particular pathogen.”

Under the new order, school districts are required to submit a revised learning plan to the Department of Education on how they will identify and intervene with students who are struggling with online learning by mid-December. In financial terms, education commissioner Richard Corcoran said that the 24 countries that experienced growth in their student populations will get a larger share of state funding, while non-growth districts were placed into a pool and the loss of about $17 million was split among them. The state also has nearly $500 million in unspent federal CARES Act money to help cover any financial losses.  

“It will be a complete victory across the board,” he said. 

No lockdowns, no mask mandates

In addition to talking about education, DeSantis also answered questions from the media for the first time in weeks. When asked where he has been, DeSantis said he’s been doing “a lot of work on preparing for the vaccine,” adding he was the only governor to visit Washington, D.C. to meet with federal health agencies to talk about how the vaccines will be delivered. He also said that while the numbers of positive cases in Florida have increased, he pointed to “all the other states that have seen their numbers increase “way way more,” including those that are on lockdown. He then reaffirmed his stance against further lockdowns, fines and business closures and scoffed at the suggestion of implementing a statewide mask mandate.

“How has that worked out in the states that have done it? Has that stopped an outbreak in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan?” he said. “I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work. Would you rather be 44th in cases like Florida and be open or top 10 in cases and be locked down?”

The Florida Department of Health reported three additional deaths due to the virus in Pinellas County Monday. The health department also reported 250 new cases of the virus in the county. Pinellas now has a cumulative total of 33,058 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 902 deaths since the outbreak began in March.

Jaymi Butler

Jaymi Butler began her writing career as a newspaper reporter in Savannah, Georgia. Her adventures continued in South Carolina and finally brought her back to her home state of Florida. When she’s not writing or playing word games on her phone, Jaymi can probably be found horseback riding, checking out new restaurants, and spending time with her family, friends, and any dog that happens to be nearby.

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