Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday again stressed his belief that it’s important for children to return to school but that parents should have a choice.
The governor said during an afternoon news conference in Melbourne that parents need to have the option to send their children back to school campuses for face-to-face instruction. He said if parents don’t feel comfortable doing that just yet, they should choose distance learning.
“The problems that will mount by keeping kids out of school indefinitely, I think, will be really, really significant,” DeSantis said. “So as we as we deal with the coronavirus, you know, we got to understand that there are still all these other issues in society that haven’t gone away, and we need to continue to keep our eye on the ball.”
He also addressed teachers.
“I know a lot of teachers really want to get back in. If others are, you know, have health problems or just don’t feel comfortable, let’s just make do with what we have,” said DeSantis, who stated last week that school districts should give teachers the option to work from home or to take sabbaticals. “But to deny people the ability to get in-person instruction, I think that that will be very problematic and I think that’ll create a lot of problems that we’ll regret in the months ahead.“
DeSantis’ comments on Thursday about reopening schools came after an address on Wednesday when he offered a similar message that also focused on giving families and teachers the choice to return to classrooms in August. DeSantis also said Florida’s 67 school districts should have the option to delay the start of school “a few weeks.”
The governor did not mention a controversial state order that said school districts must reopen brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week starting in August, unless local and state health officials say otherwise. But he also did not distance himself from it, like he previously had. Instead, he offered an explanation about why he believes schools should reopen for the fall term.
“While the risks to students from in-person learning are low, the cost of keeping schools closed are enormous,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “Let’s be honest, (distance learning) is a far cry from in-person instruction, and it places a tremendous burden on our working parents.”
Schools shuttered campuses and moved to distance learning in March as the coronavirus pandemic reached Florida. But as the new school year nears, districts are scrambling to make plans to educate children in-person and online while also trying to keep campuses safe, as the state piles up thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day.
DeSantis, a father of three, earlier this month said that if his preschool-age children were old enough, he would not hesitate to send them back to the classroom because the risk of children getting sick is “extremely, extremely low.”