DeSantis announces plan, recommendations for reopening Florida schools

MELBOURNE, Fla. (WSVN) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced the state’s plans and recommendations to reopen schools.

DeSantis made the announcement at a Thursday press conference in Melbourne.

“Working with the Department of Education, working with the superintendents, we’ve been able to provide a road map to announce the return of our schools to on-campus instruction,” DeSantis said.

According to the Department of Education, the 143-page plan outlines nearly $475 million in education-related aid from the CARES Act, which DeSantis said will be used to “make significant investments in our education system.”

The plan also has schools reopening at full capacity in time for the traditional start of the academic year.

According to the document released by the Education Department, the plan “provides health and instructional recommendations for reopening Florida’s schools, aligned to the executive direction of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Re-Open Florida Task Force’s Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

Among some of the items included in the plan are social distancing, frequent hand washing and making sick students stay home from school, but the state also provided specific recommendations for school districts.

These recommendations include:

  • Exploring staggered schedules — with different start and end times — to limit crowds.
  • Considering screening students, staff and visitors through verbal questions and visual assessments.
  • Posting signs displaying proper hygiene and social distancing guidelines.
  • Making sure there’s an adequate supply of face coverings, gloves, soap and hand sanitizer.

Although the state is not mandating the use of face masks, it is encouraging schools to use them and support students and teachers who choose to wear them.

The guidelines also detail cleaning and disinfecting procedures plus show contact tracing protocols if someone contracts COVID-19. However, the state said districts should coordinate with local health departments.

The state is also advising school districts to:

  • Convert campus locations like cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums and outdoor areas into classroom space if possible.
  • Maintain a maximum distance between students’ desks, even if six feet is not possible.
  • Create a protocol to disinfect counters and other surfaces.
  • Consider limiting nonessential visitors to campus and school programs.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho described some of what to expect when students return to campus.

“Rest assured of a number of things: we will follow CDC guidelines. We will follow appropriate protocols for social distancing,” Carvalho said. “They range from temperature measurements, to social distancing, to protocols for boarding buses, and entering schools, much more aggressive reporting of health conditions by employees, students and their parents.”

M-DCPS is set to announce their plan to return to campuses in detail later in June, and Broward County’s school board meets next week to discuss the plan for their students.

“I think the new normal that we’ll see in August when kids return to school is going to be very different from the normal we abandoned at the end of the third quarter this past school year,” Carvalho said.

To read the state’s full plan, click here.

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