CLEARWATER, Fla. – Parents across Florida have had to decide whether to keep their students home or to send them back to schools in August amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is not one of those parents because his children are too young, he said he would send them for in-person learning.
DeSantis made the remarks Wednesday at a special needs school in Clearwater where he met with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, parents and teachers and the Urban League of Central Florida to discuss reopening schools next month as COVID-19 continues to be a risk factor.
“I would have no problem, and I would absolutely have, you know, my kids in school because I do think that it’s safe to do so I believe that, because this is something that’s very low risk for kids,” DeSantis said.
The governor and his wife First Lady Casey DeSantis have three young children, Madison, 4, Mason, 2, and Mamie, who is about 5 months old.
“My wife and I both would have a lot of confidence in having our kids in the school system and that will obviously happen, you know, as, as they get a little bit older,” DeSantis said. “I know it’s a time where there’s a lot of anxiety out there. I think that having these choices, hopefully can reduce some of that anxiety,” the governor said of parents choosing between online and in-person education options.
Corcoran echoed the governor’s sentiments saying that all six of his children will be going back to school this fall, even with vulnerable family members.
“I also have a mother-in-law, and a brother-in-law ... both in very vulnerable situations, my mother-in-law obviously is elderly and my brother-in-law is an adult with unique abilities. And so, it’s you know, it’s hard for all of us, but you know, I balanced both with the kids, they’re fine, I think they’re gonna be great, going back to public school.”
Corcoran said he’s told his children they won’t be able to visit their grandmother and Uncle John, “because that’s not safe for them.”
Schools across the state moved to virtual learning in April when the virus first started becoming an issue in Florida, however, child care centers remained open.
DeSantis said Wednesday there is no evidence that having child care centers open throughout the pandemic has been a driver of community spread but stopped short of saying no cases have been reported at day cares in Florida.
“I would have no way of being able to definitively say that nobody in, in any child care setting, a caregiver, has ever come down with it. But I would say, I think clearly it’s not been a driver of community transition,” DeSantis said.
When asked by a reporter with Tampa CBS station WTSP if the state would release Florida Department of Health data proving that notion, the governor said it does not exist.
“There’s not any specific data,” DeSantis said. “If there’s an outbreak in Pasco County, you know, is the health department tying that to a child care or not? And that’s kind of how it’s been, and we’ve not seen it, we’ve seen outbreaks tied to families, obviously parties, some workplaces, different types of things, but (day cares have) not been anything that anyone would point to say has been an accelerator of spread throughout the community.”
According to the Florida Department of Health data that is available for juvenile cases of COVID-19, more than 31,150 children across the state have tested positive for the virus since March, including five deaths. A majority of those cases are among teenagers, according to the DOH.