TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – During an impassioned but short speech Wednesday, Gov. Ron laid out why he believes schools need to re-open but also said parents need to have a virtual learning option.
“No parents should be required to send their child to in-person instruction if they don’t want to,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also said accommodations should be made for students and faculty at high risk.
He suggested those teachers and students be allowed to continue exclusively with online learning.
Angie Gallo with the Florida PTA said the options have been well received.
“We’re hearing from more parents that want to keep their kids at home versus send them to school at this point,” said Gallo.
But the idea of reopening schools for in-person learning isn’t sitting well with the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, which is actively suing to delay reopening brick-and-mortar classrooms.
The union refuted DeSantis’ claim that educators are “chomping at the bit” to get back in their classrooms. It released a survey that found three out of four educators don’t believe it is safe to reopen now.
“Teachers are afraid. Many teachers are contemplating leaving this profession,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram.
But some teachers agree the benefits of going back to in-person learning outweigh the risks.
“I’m a teacher who wants to go back to school and I support DeSantis,” Franklin County ESE teacher Jennifer Darnell posted in a comment on a live feed of DeSantis’ address.
News4Jax spoke with her via Zoom.
“And I’m a high-risk person. I have an underlying condition... I refuse to sit and not do what needs to be done because I’m afraid,” said Darnell.
DeSantis’ main concern with staying fully virtual is the threat of exacerbating achievement gaps, especially for students with special needs.
The same students Darnell teaches.
“I would stand in the way of a shooter for them... This is no different. We’re going to be there for them whether it puts us at risk or not because it’s what’s best for them,” said Darnell.
Despite the urgent tone, DeSantis said it would be OK to delay reopening by a few weeks to ensure safety.
Darnell is hopeful that won’t be the case in her county.