With schools set to reopen to students in less than a month, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have not decided whether, or how, to push back that May 4 date during the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis told reporters Thursday that he is looking at the evidence on an hour-by-hour basis.
“If it’s safe, we want kids to be in school. I think most parents want that,” DeSantis said.
Opening schools again, if only for a couple of weeks before summer begins, could help return life to normal for parents, students and Floridians. But that would only come after safety is ensured and the Department of Education, administrators and parents feel ready, Corcoran added.
“Optimistically, if you can get some sense of normalcy for two weeks or what have you, yeah, that’s optimistically where we’d like to land, never one second sacrificing all the safety issues that need to be addressed,” he said.
DeSantis acknowledged that closing schools and canceling mass gatherings is standard practice during a public health crisis and that children interact with others. But he incorrectly stated COVID-19 was less serious for children and had killed no one under the age of 25. He said those facts should also factor into the state’s decision.
“This particular pandemic is one where, I don’t think, nationwide there’s been a single fatality under 25. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to threaten kids. And we lose in Florida between five and 10 kids a year for the flu,” the Governor said. “This one, for whatever reason, much more dangerous if you’re 65 and plus than the flu, no doubt about that.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported three deaths in children nationwide. And this week, 13-year-old Charlotte Figi, who helped pioneer medical cannabis legalization in Florida and elsewhere, died with COVID-19. The Washington Post reported that it had identified at least nine people under the age of 20 who died across the United States after contracting the coronavirus.
The Florida Health Department said there have been 13 influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported so far this flu season.
The state might consider letting parents opt to keep their students learning virtually or only advise some school districts to extend their closures.
“It may be that not every county’s going to be treated the same in this,” DeSantis said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. If the problem is different in certain parts, then we should recognize that. “
After an initial April 15 return advisory, the state has already once pushed back the return date to the current May 4 guidance.