Gov. DeSantis: Florida students to continue distance learning until end of school year

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that K-12 students in the state will continue distance learning until the end of the school year.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday evening announced that K-12 students in the state will continue distance learning until the end of the school year.

“We spoke with a lot of folks throughout the state. There were some differing opinions,” DeSantis said. “Some parents were not interested in their kids going back, some others were. It’s been tough around the house they would like to see them go back, but I think as we look at the clock and we look to see what it would look like, we’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning. It’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year, we felt that that was the best decision to go forward.”

“I think the last thing you want to do is force everyone in school and have half the kids not show up because their parents didn’t want them to go," he added.

Florida students were set to return to school on May 4.

Ali Bibi, a senior at Bishop Snyder, said this school year has been an emotional rollercoaster.

“Everybody finished their three quarters and then the last one that we were all waiting for is to just do fun things and this just really like messed it up,” Bibi said.

Just a month or so ago, high school seniors across America were focused on milestones like graduation, prom or taking the court or field one last time.

Now, many seniors wonder how or when they will graduate and how a global recession will affect jobs and college.

“I am a senior so I am very sad I can’t see my friends at school and be able to like hang out with them," said Bella Terhaar, a senior at Bishop Snyder High School. "I was hoping to go back at least for a week or two, but it is what it is.”

Both Duval and St. Johns counties have announced graduation ceremonies will be held but delayed until summer.

WJXT is partnering with Duval County Public Schools and High School 9:12 on a series of special senior showcases celebrating the Class of 2020. The ‘Brightest and Best’ will feature stories from each public high school in Jacksonville about how challenging and rewarding this year has been. These programs will air on Channel 4 in May.

DeSantis made the announcement about schools during a coronavirus press briefing where he also gave updates on COVID-19 testing efforts, the statewide response to long-term care facilities and the eventual restarting of Florida’s economy.

DeSantis said he will announce on Monday the members of a new task force created to begin looking at when and how to reopen businesses, schools and other aspects of life in the state.

“It will have a number of folks from business industries, it’ll have folks who are elected officials. We’re going to announce the members of the task force on Monday, which will also be the first day that the group will meet by telephone. The task force will develop a three-stage approach to react to opening the state: short-term, medium-term and long term," DeSantis said. “They’re going to provide recommendations for me by the end of the week.”

On Thursday, President Trump gave governors across the U.S. a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that are seeing a decrease in cases of the novel coronavirus.

“Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states. Every state is very different," President Trump said Thursday during the Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

Each phase includes benchmarks of sustaining a decrease in cases over a 14-day period and a “back to normal” for hospitals.

On Friday, North Florida beaches became among the first to allow people to return since closures because of the coronavirus.

Mayor Lenny Curry said Duval County beaches were reopening Friday afternoon with restricted hours, and they can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.

The beaches will be open from 6 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m., Curry said in a video posted to social media. Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited and people must still practice social distancing.

“Folks, this could be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life, but please respect and follow these limitations,” Curry said. “We’ll get back to life as we know it, but we must be patient.”

Florida officials were criticized for leaving beaches open during part of the spring break period last month. Most counties closed their beaches in response or kept them open under very restrictive conditions. Other more high-profile beaches in South Florida — including Miami Beach — were closed by state order.

The governor said it was important for people to have outlets for getting exercise, sunshine and fresh air.

DeSantis also said Saturday that he asked the Florida National Guard to expand its strike team put in place to test high-risk people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“This is something that’s really important,” he said. “What we found is that you may have everyone doing everything right in one of these facilities, but you could have a staff member who’s not symptomatic, and it can go and it could spread throughout the staff and spread to the residents very, very quickly. So we, because of that, that’s why we did the National Guard strike teams. So we have them going to different facilities they’re doing spot testing or trying to if we identify an outbreak contain it so that doesn’t spread like wildfire throughout the facility.”

As of Friday afternoon, there were 1,627 COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities in the state, including 87 cases in Clay County and 56 cases in Duval County facilities.

DeSantis said the state will eventually release the names of long-term care facilities with residents and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 in response to public records requests submitted by the media.

“I think it will actually be a double security because all these facilities are required to notify the families and required to notify the other residents and staff, and as I said I think they all have done that but all it takes if one doesn’t do it. I think I would be I would want to know so this way we’re putting it out there,” DeSantis said.

The Florida Department of Education has a list of free resources that can help student development outside of traditional academics. Visit FDOE’s Resources for Families and Teachers.

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