President Trump greets students, discusses school choice in Pine Hills

Trump attends 'listening session' at St. Andrew Catholic School near Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. – President Donald Trump on Friday visited a classroom at a private, religious school in Pine Hills on Friday, signaling that his education agenda will focus on school choice.

Trump started his tour of St. Andrew Catholic School near Orlando with a visit to a fourth-grade classroom. The White House termed the stop as a "listening session" on school choice.

Trump shook hands with a pair of students who told him they were learning about the history of Florida. He then joked to one girl who said she wanted to own her own business that she's "going to make a lot of money, but don't run for politics."

Trump praised the Catholic school as the kind of facility that disadvantaged children should be able to choose for their education.

Trump told the school principal that "the love you have for what you do is really fantastic."

The president was joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Trump repeated a line from his address to Congress on Tuesday, saying, "Education is the civil rights issue of our time."

He singled out Denisha Merriweather, a former failing student who turned her life around once she chose a new school, saying, "We want millions more to have the chance to achieve the success that you're achieving."

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News 6 investigator Mike Deforest spoke to education officials Friday at St. Andrew Catholic School as they awaited the president's arrival.

Orange County Classroom Teacher's Association president Wendy Doromal said she was there because she loves public schools.

"It's a real disappointment to me when 90 percent of all the children in the U.S. are public education students that he would make his first visit to a private school," Doromal said. "We have to protect public education. We can't keep diverting funds to voucher schools and other schools."

Doromal said charter schools are not held to the same accountability system as public schools, and that she's seen charter schools collapse, leaving children with no place to go.

The visit marks Trump's second stop in Central Florida in the last two weeks.

Trump also praised Florida, noting that he captured the state in last fall's election. 

The nearby House of Clean Laundromat is open for business, but owner Cindy Dao said she will not have many customers Friday.

"That's OK, I'm looking forward to the president,” said Dao, whose laundromat is right across the street from St. Andrew Catholic School.

"I'll see if maybe I can open and see him,” Dao said. “The police said yes. I can sit here and look around and (see) the car over there."

News 6 spotted Orange County deputies on the school’s campus and patrolling nearby Thursday.

Residents said authorities prepared them Thursday for the visit.

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"They're talking to all the neighbors, ‘(Friday) you have to stay in your house, you can't come out,’" resident Daryl Williams said.

Williams, a veteran who lives near the school, said he was told he couldn't leave his apartment to go to an appointment on Friday.

"(Friday), nobody can come out of that building," Williams said.

Many residents in the area said the president's visit is an inconvenience, but they are excited that Trump chose to come to the school.

"It's really cool that he's coming to this area in Orlando. That's what I'm really surprised about, that he's coming to this area," resident Tonya Brannum said.

Others told News 6 that they would miss his visit.

"Somebody told me tomorrow he's coming here and (to) the church ... no, I don't want to see him. The man is too bad," resident Maria Rrendosa said.

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