TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Governor DeSantis announced Saturday evening all K-12 schools will continue with distance learning for the remainder of this school year.

“We spoke with a lot of folks throughout the state. There was some differing opinions. Some parents were not interested in their kids going back, others it’s been tough around the house, they would’ve liked to have seen them go back,” DeSantis said during his press conference. “But I think as we looked at the clock and looked to see how it would’ve looked like, we’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning. It’s obviously not the ideal situation but given where we are in the school year, we felt that that was the best decision to go forward.”

This news comes days after the president of the Florida Education Association sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis and Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran asking for the closure of on-campus learning for the remainder of the school year.

“As much as our students and educators want the opportunity to be back at our schools, returning prematurely will threaten the safety and well-being of all on campus,” Florida Education Association president Fedrick Ingram wrote in the letter.

Initially, on March 13 Commissioner Corcoran issued an order to close public schools statewide until March 30.

“Keeping students healthy and safe is my number one priority, and that is why we are recommending that districts follow the CDC’s guidance for Florida,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “We are continuing to monitor COVID-19, and I encourage all Floridians to remain informed and take the necessary precautions that have been issued by the CDC.” 

However, as cases continued to rise across the state and nation, Gov. DeSantis announced on March 17 all schools would stay closed through at least April 15.

With this change, the Florida Department of Education advised school districts to be prepared to extend their school calendars until June 30 if needed.

As Florida COVID-19 cases surpassed 5,700 on March 30, public school campuses across the state were officially closed through the month of April following a new guidance issued by the Florida Department of Health and CDC.

Ultimately, however, DeSantis said Saturday while being sensitive when making the decision, it was for the best when it came to the health and safety of Florida teachers, students and families.

“A lot of our kids haven’t seen friends for a while. This has had social costs to it… But the last thing you want to do is force everyone in school then half the kids not show up because their parents didn’t want them to, have teachers not want to do it. It was an easier decision for me to make knowing that we’ve done so well with the distance learning.”

Below are the statements released by Tampa Bay area school superintendents and school districts on DeSantis’ decision:

“I believed in my heart that it was likely we would not return to our school campuses for the remainder of the year but that doesn’t make it easy to hear the official announcement from the state.

I continue to be impressed by the resilience of all teachers, support staff, school and district-based leaders, and the willingness to create special moments for students during eLearning.

I look forward to returning to a new level of normalcy soon.”

Hillsborough County Superintendent Addison Davis

Hillsborough County Public Schools Facebook Page

“We just got word that Governor DeSantis has recommended that schools statewide remain closed through the end of this school year. I support that recommendation.

In Pasco County, our school campuses will remain closed. However, students will continue to be engaged with distance learning through May 27, the last day of school.

Due to the potential health and safety risks, I could not, in good conscience, direct our students teachers, and staff to return in this environment.”

Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Brown

Pasco County Schools Facebook Page

“As superintendent, I and the Pinellas County School Board are in full agreement with the governor’s decision to continue with digital learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. The safety, health and well-being of our students, families, staff and community are of the utmost importance.

We recognize that there are many end-of-year traditions and this time is exceptionally hard for our high school seniors and their families.

We are working to ensure such celebrations, especially graduation, are honored and meaningful.

During the first three weeks of digital learning, nearly 98 percent of our students engaged online. We are committed to continuously improve our supports for our staff, students and families with the ultimate goal of reaching 100 percent student participation.”

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego

Pinellas County Schools Facebook Page

Polk County Public Schools Facebook Page

Hernando County Schools Facebook Page

Citrus County School District Facebook Page

School District of Manatee County Facebook Page

Sarasota County Schools Facebook Page

Hardee County School District Website

School Board of Highlands County Facebook Page