TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the state’s plans for reopening schools come fall.

DeSantis said after working with the Florida Department of Education and superintendents across the state, a road map has been created for schools to return to on-campus instruction, just two months after he decided to have all K-12 schools to continue with distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

The plan includes $475 million in educated-related aid, which will directly come from the CARES Act.

Below are the resources included in the $475 million aid:

  • $64 million will be provided to close achievement gaps. A four- to five-week summer program will be implemented on school campuses for K-5 students “who have identified with a substantial deficiency in reading based on assessments and teacher recommendations.”
  • $20 million will go toward reading curriculum and supplemental materials for grades K-3
  • $15 million will be dedicated to training 2,000 reading coaches as well as in-classroom support with the coaches
  • $55 million is allotted for financial assistance to the childcare providers who remained open during the COVID-19 crisis and can be used toward infrastructure, personnel costs, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • $8 million for every student graduating in the 2020-2021 school year to take the ACT, SAT free of charge

“The message should be loud and clear. What we are saying, with a strong recommendation to our great superintendents we work with, we want schools fully open in the fall because there is no better way to educate our kids than have that great teacher in front of that child,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said.

As part of the state’s road map to reopening schools, the Florida Department of Education announced the state will be following a “Dimmer Switch” approach, meaning the state will take a step-by-step approach to reopening rather than a “Flip the Light Switch” approach.

In the “Dimmer Switch” approach, the FDOE said K-12 schools are recommended to follow the below steps:

  • Step 1: June – open up campuses for youth activities and summer camps
  • Step 2: July – expand campus capacities further for summer recovery instruction
  • Step 3: August – open up campuses at full capacity for traditional start of the academic year

Below are the steps for postsecondary schools:

  • Summer A and C Semesters: State colleges, technical colleges and universities are generally virtual, with the exception of first responder and some CTE programs.
  • Summer B Semester: Open state colleges and technical colleges for in-person summer learning. State universities continue to remain virtual as they have already decided for Summer B.
  • Fall Semester: Open state colleges, technical colleges and universities at full capacity for traditional start of the academic year.

“We also know that they are not at a low risk, they are at an extremely low risk not only of contracting it but even spreading it. All of that data is in,” Corcoran said.

This announcement comes on a day where the Florida Department of Health reported the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases to date. Currently, the total number of cases is 69,069, which was a 1,698 case increase from Wednesday.

In the state’s plan, it acknowledges “there is a potential that some families will hesitate to send their students back to school for full-time in-person learning.”

Schools are being encouraged to “show compassion for families’ health-related concerns and simultaneously maintain a commitment to educating every child” and “if some families still do not return in August, districts and schools must work to close any potential gaps in learning for those students.”

In part to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the state is recommending schools create visible safe learning zones. The state will encourage “the use of outside and unconventional spaces with significant options for social distancing for learning and extracurricular activities” as well as “consider moving large staff meetings and student assemblies to more open spaces or utilize virtual tools.”

Additionally, the state said in its plan that schools should still continue to follow CDC guidelines such as frequently washing hands, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, disinfect surfaces as much as possible, and to stay home if one becomes sick.

Below is a statement from Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis regarding the state’s school reopening plan:

“Hillsborough County Public Schools stands ready to welcome our learners back to school in the fall with open arms in a safe and deliberate manner.

Our leadership has already been diligently working on our reopening plans, taking into account input from families and staff to ensure everyone returns to an environment where safety is at the forefront.

Our district will continue to monitor CDC guidelines, understanding this is still a fluid situation with many moving parts.

The health of our students and staff will remain one of our greatest priorities as we look forward to the fall, and we will release our plans as soon as they are finalized.”

Below is a statement from Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd regarding the state’s school reopening plan:

“The governor has just released guidance on reopening schools in the fall.

PCPS is reviewing the information we’ve received from Tallahassee and will announce details for how school will resume locally as soon as possible.

We continue to monitor the virus’s spread in Polk County, and we’ve formed a task force that includes district leaders, local healthcare experts, and community members to guide us as we look ahead to next school year.

We are also about to conclude a survey of parents, employees, and community members that will provide us with valuable data as we move forward.

The safety of our students, employees, families and community is our first priority, and it will be as we make the numerous decisions related to reopening school during a pandemic.”

For more on the state’s reopening plan for schools, click the download button below.