Should Florida students continue virtual learning next semester?

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “In-person is the best way to do it”

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s education leader says he hopes to have a decision on whether students can continue virtual learning next semester by sometime in November.

Richard Corcoran, Florida Education Commissioner, toured Florida Virtual School in Orlando on Monday with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“We’ve been very clear that we want parents to have a choice, and we want students to have a choice,” Corcoran told reporters.

“The president and I have long supported multiple options and choices for parents, and we’re going to continue to do that,” DeVos said.

DeVos had high marks for what Florida Virtual School had accomplished.

She also praised the state’s school districts' abilities to adapt to online learning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but she said in-person learning is still the preferred method of education.

“The expectation is that kids have got to be learning in a full-time manner. In most cases, in-person is the best way to do it,” she said. “They are only five once. They’re only eight once. They’re only twelve once, and we’ve got to stay focused on doing the right thing for our children.”

“It’s something that we’re anticipating an answer to sometime in November,” said Scott Howat, spokesman for Orange County Public Schools.

Howat said more than 50 percent of his students use Launch Ed, the district’s option for virtually attending school.

He said if the state does not extend the emergency declaration or include virtual learning at the district level, some parents may feel forced to enroll their children in private virtual schools.

If that happens, he said, he feared districts could lose some of their funding.

“We would hope that if there is a need for parents and students to remain Launch Ed at home that the funding would continue at similar levels.” he said.

Corcoran said he spoke with all 67 school superintendents, and he is waiting on them to forward their recommendations of what they think are best practices moving forward.

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