Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend school closures through the end of the academic year.
DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have made no decision yet on whether to again extend school closures as they buy time to make a call before campuses open on May 4. Across the state, school districts have transitioned to distance learning, including sending coursework home or, a 21st century solution, virtual learning.
“As difficult as the change to distance learning has been, our teachers, students and parents have made the transition,” Hanna wrote in the Wednesday letter. “It would be extremely disruptive, if not impossible, to shift back to finish the last few weeks of the school year in the classroom.”
Only 33 days remain on the academic calendar, making it not worth the risk, he added.
Bringing students back to school, if only for two weeks, would help return a sense of normalcy, Corcoran said Thursday. But with the Department of Education’s advisory for schools to stay closed expiring at the start of May, DeSantis and Corcoran must make a decision soon to give school districts enough time to prepare to reopen.
“We’re just in a situation where we’ve got to see where we’re going,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “It doesn’t mean that they are going to go back, but I think we just need to get down this road a little bit farther.”
Parents and school administrators would play a role in the department’s decision to give the OK, as would a task force the Governor said he would likely announce this week. Most parents would like to see their children return to campus if possible, he said.
But for those that wouldn’t, the state might consider letting parents keep their children on a distance learning program. Hanna pushed back against that idea.
“Our teachers cannot effectively deliver education in two different modes, simultaneously operating live and virtual classrooms.”
Only 173 Floridians aged 5-14 have tested positive for COVID-19, and people 24 and younger make up 8% of the 21,435 cases among Florida residents. Additionally, only five of the 3,099 Floridians who have been hospitalized are between the ages of 5 and 14. No one 24 or younger has died in Florida.
But 250 Leon County Schools employees are older than 65 while others could have underlying medical conditions, both considered risk factors for developing severe cases. Children and others who contract COVID-19 might be asymptomatic carriers, unknowingly spreading the disease to others.
Hanna said the county’s latest forecast shows the coronavirus peak occurring in June, about a month behind the statewide peak projected by an influential model. The state is also considering limiting the extended closure to some school districts in the state’s coronavirus hot spots, mainly in South Florida.