Pediatric group pleads with DeSantis not to send kids back to school

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Orlando Regional Medical Center Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. DeSantis spoke about Florida’s caseload of coronavirus topping 100,000. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis citing reasons why children should not be back in classrooms next month.

Many of the parents and school administrators in Southwest Florida are hoping that the word of doctors will help sway the governor’s position on schools reopening.

Susan Patti, an elementary school counselor in Lee County, said, “I think it really clearly defines what the risks are and I think that’s super important because parents are making a life or death decision in some cases.”

In the letter FCAAP released on Thursday, doctors said the governor and the education commission misconstrued the words of the American Academy of Pediatrics. When they said “children do best when they are in schools,” the president of FCAAP meant when schools are safe to go to.

The letter also mentions that in the past two weeks, positive viral infection rates have been at 14.2%. Doctors say children should return to school when rates are between 3 and 5 percent in a two-week period and warn that rates could skyrocket if schools reopen too early.

Many parents think that the advice of these pediatricians means they should have a say in whether or not they send their children back to school.

“If this is their advice then that is going to play a big impact in the way parents choose to have their children attend school,” said Eva Ruiz, a parent and special education teacher in Lee County.

One teacher hopes the word of several pediatricians will change the decision to reopen schools come August.

“I definitely hope that it will change people’s views,” said Julie Abalos, an eighth grade history teacher in Collier County.

Even members of the Lee County School Board are taking a look at the letter sent out by FCAAP and hope that the governor is willing to do the same.

“I hope the governor listens. I hope he sees that it’s coming from professionals that are in the health care business,” said Gwynetta Gittens, a school board member.

Another school board member, Mary Fischer, added, “I think it should impact not only the state level but all of us locally.”

While a lot of parents, like Diana Smith, have not decided whether or not their children will be back in school this fall, she thinks parents should definitely take the words of the pediatricians into account when making their decisions.

“Each parent needs to look at it with a critical eye,” said Smith.

Also in the letter, FCAAP mentions that kids may not get as severe of symptoms with the coronavirus as adults do but there’s still much unknown about how the virus acts in children. For that reason, there are also concerns about how the virus may impact kids.

At Saturday’s press conference, DeSantis was asked about the letter to which he replied that he has not yet reviewed it.

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