Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is not yet dismissing the possibility of reopening schools in Florida, he confirmed Thursday at an education roundtable discussion.
The Sunshine State has extended school closures to May 1, and while it could be delayed further, DeSantis is not taking any hardline positions. At least, not yet.
He told reporters on Thursday officials are going to continue to “look at the evidence and make a decision” on reopening schools in, perhaps, two-week increments, noting the situation varies drastically from district to district.
“It may be that not every county is going to be treated the same in all this,” DeSantis explained.
His admission comes as the state, with a population of over 21 million, rises to over 16,800 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Counties in the southeast portion of the state — Miami-Dade and Broward — have been hardest hit. Cases vary across the state, with many counties reporting less than 100 confirmed cases. Liberty County, as of Friday morning, was the only Florida county left with zero reported cases of the coronavirus.
DeSantis also noted the virus does not seem to affect children as it does adults.
“And we lose in Florida between five and 10 kids a year for the flu. This one, for whatever reason, much more dangerous if you’re 65 and plus than the flu, no doubt about that,” he explained.
“If you’re younger, it just hasn’t had an impact, so that should factor into how we’re viewing this. I think the data on that has been 100 percent consistent,” he added. “I’ve not seen any deviation on that.”
“If it’s safe we want kids to be in school. … Even if it’s for a couple of weeks, we think there would be value in that,” he said, as parents across the state continue to grapple with online learning. The Department of Education has taken initiative in easing remote learning, purchasing 32,000 laptop computers “to distribute in small, rural districts that lacked the capacity to provide enough technology for all their students,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Florida Virtual School is also offering over 100 free classes for students across the state.
While DeSantis remains hopeful and open to reopening schools, not all governors share that view. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced Thursday that schools in his state will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year:
In order to keep as many Pennsylvanians as possible safe, schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Special thank you to everyone who is doing their part to ensure our kids continue to learn and grow, even during these tough times. pic.twitter.com/2nv1MbXDA0
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 9, 2020
Pennsylvania had over 18,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of Friday morning.