Scrapping distance learning ‘extremely disruptive, if not impossible,’ Leon superintendent says
Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna issued an urgent plea for teachers, students and staff to follow virus guidelines — or risk disciplinary consequences.

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At least 250 Leon County school district employees are in the at-risk demographic.

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.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


3 comments

  • Patti Lynn

    April 15, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Because we will NOT have a vaccine, or sufficient testing capacity, the PRUDENT thing to do is to extend the closure through this school year. That will give the state the summer months to develop a plan for protecting students, teachers, staff, and all of their families. It will be impossible to have a sufficient space separation in our classrooms. Keep the schools CLOSED through the 2019-2020 school year!

    • Luis

      April 16, 2020 at 10:52 am

      My children attend a very over crowded high school, almost 5000 students. There is no way they can stay away from other students. It makes no sense to return to school this year. My children are very disciplined. They get up early and attend their virtual classes every day. Good thing dade county will not be going back.

  • George

    April 16, 2020 at 7:19 am

    It’s just nice to see that Supt. Rocky Hanna has done something. Up to this point he’s simply given double talk to parents, passed the buck to principals and teachers, and overseen a chaotic and ineffectual transition to online activities. I won’t call it learning or instruction because that’s not what it is. His lack of leadership or response to parental concerns has been nothing short of appalling.

Comments are closed.


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