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DeSantis announces reopening plan for schools

By Staff | Jul 14, 2020

With Florida schools moving to distance learning in March after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced over the weekend how his office has “provided a roadmap” to return schools to on-campus instruction as Lee County Schools prepare to reopen Aug. 10.

DeSantis said schools will be using funding from the federal CARES Act to make significant investments in the educational system. “Achievement gaps are expected to significantly widen across the nation due to COVID-19 related school closures and the shift to distance learning,” DeSantis said.

“Having a teacher there, there is not going to be a substitute for that in-person instruction,” he said.

There will be $64 million allocated to close achievement gaps “that have likely been exacerbated during the pandemic,” DeSantis said. The funds will go toward K-5 summer programs that will last four to five weeks on school campuses. The programs will focus on students who have been identified as having substantial deficiencies in reading based on assessment and teacher recommendations.

DeSantis said his goal is to have 90% of students proficient in reading by 2024. DeSantis announced he is allocating $20 million to engage school districts in identifying and adopting reading curriculum and supplemental instructional materials for grades K-3.

Another $15 million will go to training and developing 2,000 reading coaches and developing regional support teams to improve reading.

The plan announced by DeSantis provides more than $223 million for early reading programs, including $55 million for childcare providers.

“We have a great opportunity to get back on good footing. I know our kids have been in difficult circumstances for the past couple of months now,” DeSantis said. “Getting back on our feet in a school year I think is going to be really important for the well-being of our kids but I also think it’s very important for our parents who have had to juggle an awful lot.”

Two days earlier, DeSantis drew attention for comments he made in Jacksonville saying that if businesses like fast-food restaurants, Walmart and Home Depot were essential for the public to shop at, than “educating kids is absolutely essential.”

DeSantis said children under 18 are less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than influenza. According to the Florida Department of Health, three percent of hospitalizations for the coronavirus have been for those 24 and younger. Of the 4,277 deaths in Florida from COVID-19, two of the deaths have been among those 14 or younger and 13 of the deaths have been among those 24 and younger, which is less than one percent of all deaths.

DeSantis said that if children have health issues, there will be accommodations made. Despite concerns that children could spread COVID-19 to vulnerable adults, DeSantis said he believed that children aren’t “significant vectors” for spreading coronavirus. Those who don’t want to send their children to schools, won’t be forced to, DeSantis said.

“I am confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.”