TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that all state testing for K-12 students has been canceled.
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran also announced that students will not return to campus until at least April 15. Students will begin distance learning when they return from their respective spring breaks.
Duval County Public Schools, along with schools in Union, Sumter and Collier counties, will begin virtual and distance learning on March 23.
Shortly after the announcement, the St. Johns County School District sent a letter to parents letting them know that students will begin online learning on March 30 and continue for the next 12 school days.
DeSantis said he and his staff would reevaluate the decision every two weeks.
DeSantis also said parents can decide to keep their child in the same grade for the 2020-2021 school year as the state acts more aggressively to contain a new strain of coronavirus.
During a 5 p.m. press conference, DeSantis announced 24 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of cases in the state to 216 with more than 1,000 test results still pending.
DeSantis said he wasn’t ready to mandate that K-12 students continue virtual learning for the rest of the school year but didn’t rule it out.
In an effort to make sure all students have the ability to access virtual learning, the state plans to redirect unspent funds to help low-income students get digital devices and internet service.
“It is essential that students do not fall behind and are still receiving instruction, even when they are not in the classroom,” Corcoran said. “I praise these districts for being prepared to swiftly implement distance learning. It is crucial that we keep students safe and healthy, and I will continue working with each and every district to ensure that they have all the resources necessary as we respond to COVID-19.”
With state testing canceled, DeSantis said that requirements for graduation and final course grades will be evaluated as if those assessments did not exist. That also means letter grades for each school typically handed down each year will not happen this school year.
When students do make it back to campuses, schools were strongly encouraged to have no more than 10 people in a room together to adhere to CDC recommendations.
Earlier in the day, DeSantis ordered all of Florida’s bars and nightclubs closed for 30 days starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday. He also said he’s asking the state’s university board of governors to require students to return home for remote learning for the rest of the spring semester.
“We don’t want large crowds of people congregating right now,” the governor said. “We want enough isolation so that the virus has more difficulty spreading throughout the community.”