ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida schools will open this fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which shows no signs of slowing, according to a statewide executive order issued Monday.
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed the order Monday, with the stated goal of reopening all brick-and-mortar schools for at least five days a week for all students beginning in August, according to the executive order.
The executive order was signed around 11 a.m. Monday, hours later President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!”
Florida has reported more than 206,000 cases of COVID-19 since March and nearly 3,900 have died statewide in the same time period.
Before Florida schools reopen they must submit a plan to the school district detailing plans for health and safety precautions as well as how to monitor learning gaps amid the pandemic, according to the order. This also applies to charter schools and private schools that accept scholarship students.
The Florida Department of Education will give the final OK for school reopening plans.
“The Department will consider factors, including but not limited to, the percentage of students in the district who are projected to learn through live synchronous or asynchronous instruction, and the quality of proposed progress monitoring data and efforts to close achievement gaps,” according to the order.
Students will be given the option to continue virtual learning.
When asked about the order, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he remains optimistic that students will be able to go back to in-school learning in the fall.
“There’s probably a way for them to be able to open in a safe manner. If they follow the CDC guidelines, they’re gonna have to be creative to ensure that the areas are sanitized as best as possible,” Demings said. “They’re going to have to be creative to ensure that there’s appropriate distance in between the students.”
News 6 reached out to all 10 Central Florida school districts about their plans to reopen.
Seminole County School Board is set to approve the final safety plan for campuses to reopen on July 14.
Osceola County schools will reopen on Aug. 10 as planned, according to the school district. A comprehensive back-to-school plan was already approved by the school board.
The Orange County School Board will meet Tuesday for a work session where reopening plans will be discussed. In June, the school board solicited suggestions from families and employees on how to reopen safely. A summary of those ideas is available here.
The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association wrote in a Facebook post that it “will not support a reopening plan that could expose students, teachers or their families to illness, hospitalization or death.”
Wendy Doromal, president of Orange County Classroom Teachers, said there’s no safe way to accomplish the state’s goal.
“Following the CDC recommendations, it would be impossible,” Doromal said. “Our school system does not have the financial resources or the manpower it would take to safely reopen our schools.”
She mentioned removing masks to eat lunch and social distancing as potential problems.
“There’s no way that our schools could have social distancing with overcrowded classrooms. This is just a very dangerous prospect,” Doromal said.
A draft of Lake County’s school reopening plan is available here.
Polk County has assembled a task force to devise a reopening plan. Materials related to those meetings are posted online.
Brevard Public Schools has a webpage dedicated to the latest coronavirus news.
Sumter County said it is ready to return to school next month.
“We have been waiting on the guidance that we received (Monday) to offer our parents an alternative that would be funded by DOE, and we received that (Monday), so now we are waiting on the new template so that we can submit our plan for approval,” a school representative said in an email to News 6.
Sumter County has posted its return plan for summer online.
Officials with the Volusia County School Board said last month that they plan to hold a special meeting on July 15 with the goal of finalizing the fall plan as soon as possible.
The Marion County School Board has a meeting scheduled Tuesday to potentially approve a plan for the upcoming academic year.
Flagler Schools has posted general guidelines for reopening, which include signage encouraging everyone to follow CDC recommendations to stop the spread and suspending all non-essential visitations.