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DeSantis Repeats Stance On School Reopenings During Riverview Education Roundtable

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at an education roundtable at an education roundtable at a public charter high school in Riverview Monday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at an education roundtable at an education roundtable at a public charter high school in Riverview Monday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held an education roundtable at a public charter high school in Riverview Monday.

There was some tension when members of the public asked questions, particularly about how Hillsborough County public schools will reopen.

The governor and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sat down with the principal, a teacher, parents, and others from Winthrop College Prep Academy to highlight the school.

Winthrop will open for in-person instruction August 24 and also offer online classes for kids who choose to learn from home.

The governor applauded Winthrop's reopening plan, referring to how the school handled the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

"While the distance learning may have been something that needed to be done at the time, there's no substitute for that in-person instruction. I know they're really chomping at the bit to get back. You feel that here. There's definitely a sense of excitement," said DeSantis.

After the roundtable, a member of the public who did not identify herself asked why no one opposed to in-person instruction was invited to speak.

"There's a lot of people here and they all agree with opening, which is great because it's choices, but I don't see anybody here that doesn't agree with opening,” she said, adding that teachers have concerns about their health.

The governor said there are flexible options for parents but he did not address the concerns of teachers.

He also responded to questions about the state denying the Hillsborough County School District the ability to start the school year fully online.

DeSantis said "some of this stuff is just not debatable anymore," continuing to say that kids are at lower risk for contracting the coronavirus.

"Beyond that is really a policy decision about how important is it to get students back in the classroom and how you balance that with, not zero risk, but I would say low risk," he said.

Corcoran gave a seemingly mixed message, saying it's up to the discretion of local school districts on how they reopen, but adding that his emergency order says they need to offer in-person classes to get fully funded.

"Hillsborough themselves two weeks ago was in complete agreement,” said Corcoran. “Every other district is doing what exactly what the emergency order gave them flexibility to do and they're doing it with great fanfare."

Hillsborough County's school board voted last week to go fully online for the first month of classes starting August 24.

The next day, Corcoran sent a letter to Hillsborough officials saying that violated the original plan which the state had already approved.

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