Local control central to Florida’s plan to reopen schools

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran released the state’s recommendations for school districts to open in the fall, and it has largely been received positively by education groups.

The 143-page reopening guide lays out recommendations for social distancing and sanitation. It sets the goal of returning schools to full capacity in the fall but also acknowledges the potential for staggered scheduling or even potential returns to distance learning.

“The commissioner is very enthusiastic about us starting school and I think he should be,” said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association.

Ingram said the key takeaway from the plan is that districts will be able to decide what works best in their area.

“How they start school, what parameters are in place for safety, for academic success,” Ingram said.

Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association applauded the recognition that many students will require special attention after a five-month classroom break.

“We have to recognize them early and we have to get in there with whatever supports we need to be able to get in there with to try to catch them up,” Messina said.

FEA criticized the plan for its high emphasis on the economic need to return to school, saying that student health should be the top priority.

And with the state seeing ten straight days with 1,000 new cases, a fall reopening is far from guaranteed.

“But we’re in this situation and we need to be in it together and we need to be by, for and about children,” Ingram said.

The state expects to spend almost $1 billion in CARES Act funding on K-12 education. An additional $173 million will be at the disposal of the governor to help hardest hit areas.

In the event schools must return to distance learning, the state plan recommends districts use some of the federal funding to ensure all students have access to adequate technology and internet connectivity.

And the school boards association is urging Floridians to get involved with reopening plans in their communities by contacting their local officials and letting them know what their expectations are.