What is certain is Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran want schools to reopen at some point in May, or perhaps even in June.
“We obviously would love to get back to normal as soon as we can,” DeSantis told reporters Thursday. “If it’s safe, we want kids to be in school. I think most parents want that. Even if it’s for a couple of weeks, we think there would be value in that.”
“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 for 1 second sacrificing all the safety issues that need to be addressed,” Corcoran said.
DeSantis said the state will “look at the evidence and make a decision” in the coming weeks about the May 4 reopening date. The governor initially closed schools until April 15 but extended the closure to May on April 1.
The “evidence” cited by DeSantis, however, is an incorrect claim that COVID-19 has killed no one under the age of 25 nationwide and “doesn’t seem to threaten kids.”
“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,” he said. “This one, for whatever reason, is much more dangerous if you’re 65 and plus than the flu, no doubt about that.”
While children and young adults appear less vulnerable to the disease, they can be infected and can be contagious, public health officials warn, and the governor’s claim about no one under 25 years old dying from COVID-19 is untrue.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least three children nationwide have died from the disease, including 13-year-old medical cannabis oil pioneer Charlotte Figi this week.
The Washington Post reported at least nine COVID-19 positive Americans under the age of 20 have died across the U.S.
DeSantis said a potential return-to-school order could be applied regionally, county-by-county or even school-by-school.
“It may be that not every county’s going to be treated the same in this,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. If the problem is different in certain parts, then we should recognize that.”
Although there are technical issues and disparities in access to technology, DeSantis praised the “great job” school administrators, teachers, students and parents have done in adjusting quickly to distance learning offered by districts and through Florida Virtual School (FLVS), the statewide digital school district created by lawmakers in 2000.
Orlando-based FLVS provides more than 100 K-12 courses and is booting up to serve all of the state’s 2.7 million K-12 students by early May.
FLVS also can provide curriculum beyond Florida. It has signed a $525,000 agreement with the Alaska Department of Education to serve more than 300 public school students during the pandemic and train teachers on how to conduct online classes.
“School is more than a location – education can happen anywhere,” Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson said in a statement about the virtual school “partnership.”