DeSantis calls for schools to reopen at full capacity

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion

MELBOURNE– Governor Ron DeSantis announced in a press conference on June 11 that he would like to see Florida schools reopen at full capacity in August. The announcement signals his administration’s desire to move away from the distance learning model districts employed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

“There’s not going to be a substitute for in-person instruction,” Gov. DeSantis explained. “Getting back on our feet in the school year I think is going to be really important for the wellbeing of our kids. But I also think it is important for our parents who have had to juggle an awful lot over these last couple months.”

Included in the announcement were recommendations to reduce the risk to students and simplify contract tracing if needed. Recommendations such as keeping groups of students together throughout the day to minimize the number of people in close contact with each person, converting cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums, auditoriums, outdoor areas into classroom space and exploring allowing students to eat meals in traditional classroom space or outdoors.

The reopening plan recommends schools maintain maximum distance between desks as possible, even if it’s not exactly six feet. And to avoid the sharing of textbooks, supplies and toys. Schools could also consider limiting nonessential visitors to campuses and programs.

The plan also highlighted ways to safely allow school sports to return. Gov. DeSantis urged schools to explore having an increased presence of law enforcement or staff at events to maintain adherence to social distancing, consider limited seating at events while allowing families to sit together and marking off seating for social distancing, and having attendees arrive at events earlier, stagger exits and allow for multiple entry and exit points.

Cloth face coverings will not be mandated, but the guidelines released by the state say that at a minimum schools should be supportive of students, teachers and staff who voluntarily wear them.

Gov. DeSantis also laid out how the state plans to spend money to support schools reopening for the 2020-21 year.
•$64 million to close achievement gaps, including a 4- to 5-week summer reading program for K-5 students.
•$20 million to help schools identify supplemental reading curricula for K-3 students.
•$15 million to train, develop and support up to 2,000 new reading coaches.
•$223 million to support early learning programs, including $55 million in financial assistance to childcare providers.
•$61 million to support childcare providers that reopen during the state’s phased reopening plan.
•$21 million for transition-to-Kindergarten programs, including summer programs for about 45,000 rising kindergarten students with limited language skills.
•$45 million in safety net funds, including $30 million for tax credit scholarships and $15 million in financial relief.
•$8 million for all public school students graduating next school year to take the SAT and ACT free of charge.
•$5 million to expand civic literacy programs.

You can view the state’s PowerPoint presentation here

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