Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his stance that children should return to in-person learning this fall while also giving parents a choice.
The governor was joined by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during a roundtable discussion on education amid the coronavirus pandemic at the Paul B. Stephens School in Clearwater.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
DeSantis said having an option is more administratively challenging but "putting the power in the hands of the parents makes the most sense."
The governor said he is worried that many students will suffer academically and suffer mental health consequences if they are not able to return to classrooms.
The Palm Beach County School District said earlier this month they will begin the school year exclusively online.
"There are limitations when it comes distance learning, in particular when you are talking about school children that have special needs," DeSantis said Wednesday. "We do believe, fundamentally, in providing parents with the choice (distance learning) or returning to the classroom."
School districts across the state continue to debate sending students back to class this fall with many offering parents a choice to continue virtual learning.
The governor said he will allow school districts to make their own decisions in the best interest of the students and is OK with schools delaying their start date.
"We [would] much rather have a successful school year if it's a couple weeks late than kind of go into it and not be ready to handle the situations that may develop," the governor said.
Corcoran echoed those comments and believes the majority of parents want their children to return to traditional education.
"I think you're going to see, come the end of August, when our schools have all of those different options for students, you’re going to see 60 plus to 90 percent most of them choose face-to-face (learning)," Corcoran said.
The roundtable discussion also included a parent of a special needs student, a teacher at the Paul B. Stephens School and the executive director of ESE at Pinellas County schools.
"There's no evidence that having child care open throughout this whole time has been a driver of community spread (of the coronavirus)," DeSantis said.
DeSantis said Tuesday that over that last few months patients with coronavirus are experiencing improved outcomes and recoveries, calling it a "positive development."
On Wednesday, Florida broke its record for reported deaths, 216, shattering the mark of 186 the day before. The state now has 6,333 coronavirus deaths and 451,423 confirmed cases.