Distance learning will be an option through end of school year, Florida education head says

Reporter: Justin Kase
Published: Updated:

Florida students will be able to continue learning remotely through the second half of the school year, state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Wednesday. 

The reopening of brick-and-mortar classrooms, which were shuttered during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic this spring, became a political flashpoint over the summer after Corcoran ordered school districts to offer in-person instruction as well as online learning or be penalized financially. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Corcoran have maintained that families need to have the option of choosing face-to-face instruction or distance learning for children, arguing that keeping students away from school can have damaging impacts on students’ physical safety and mental health. 

During a state Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Corcoran said he expects to release another order addressing the pandemic by the end of the month, adding distance learning will remain an option. 

“From the top down in this state, that will absolutely happen. There is no flexibility for anything but that,” he said. 

Speaking to the Board of Education, Wakulla County Schools Superintendent Robert Pearce said the need for remote learning remains as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to rise. 

“We have every intent of continuing our distance learning platforms, that are unique to each district, going forward. We applaud you continuing that,” he said. 

Pearce says many teachers are currently working under extreme stress, and some in his district have quit the profession in recent months. Numbers released Tuesday by the state Department of Health show nearly 7,500 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the past day, including 85 deaths. In total, there have been nearly 900,000 reported cases in Florida, and 17,644 deaths caused by the coronavirus since March. 

Alexandra Brown’s daughter started the school year learning remotely with Oak Hammock Middle School in Lee County and is now full-time with Lee Virtual School.  

Kids are kids,” Brown told WINK News. “Are they going to keep up with the social distancing? Are they going to wear their masks? And I could always tell my daughter, but you can’t really control everybody else. 

Brown says it could take a vaccine, maybe more testingbefore she feels comfortable sending her daughter back to school in personFor now, she’s thankful she’s guaranteed a choice.  

I definitely like the option of it all becauseeven if we decide to change from virtual back to school, we also want the option,” Brown said.   

We also heard from multiple parents who say they don’t need an option. Their kids went back day one and they’ll stay in school.  

He went back right away,” Michael Carr, whose son goes to Caloosa Middle School in Cape Coral, told WINK News. “He was like begging me to go back actually.  

It’s not the same as having that connection,” David Bourlier, whose son and daughter are in Lee County schools, told WINK News. “What one on one where they can help you.  

Although Bourlier’s mind is made up, he knows other families are in much different situations, so he’s thankful the option will still be offered.  

You still need to be able to have both so that that way they can still learn,” Bourlier said. “Because you don’t want kids falling behind. No matter which way it is, you don’t want kids falling behind. 

Most parents said their kids learn better in person but know the pandemic won’t last forever.  

It won’t be forever,” said Rosimeri Perini, whose son goes to a Lee County school. “Every single person pays a little price. We can curve this.” 

WINK News reached out to the Collier County Public Schools to see if Wednesday’s announcement will change any of their plans to bring all students back to in-person learning for the second semester. A spokesperson said the district can’t comment but will review the details of a new emergency order if it’s extended. 

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