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DeSantis Rejects Tampa Schools’ Plan for Online-Only Classes

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Miami Beach, Fla., April 8, 2020. (Al Diaz/Reuters)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday rejected a plan from the Tampa-area school district to begin the school year with online classes only, insisting that schools must allow parents to send their children back to school if they so choose.

“Some of this stuff is just not debatable anymore,” DeSantis said during a Monday roundtable at a Hillsborough County charter school alongside Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “We’re going in a good direction in this area and that’s just the reality.”

Hillsborough County, the state’s third-largest school district which as of Monday ranked fifth in the state for coronavirus positivity at 13 percent, had proposed offering online-only classes for the first four weeks of the imminent school year beginning August 24. The Republican governor and education commissioner rejected that plan on Friday.

The district, which is responsible for the education of 223,300 students, had originally proposed an instruction model that combined online classes with in-person classes but withdrew that plan after doctors in the Tampa area warned against it.

The education commissioner has given the district an August 14 deadline to decide whether it will open up classrooms or modify the plan, detailing how many parents requested in-person instruction and explaining why the district is not able to offer it. Without changes, the district’s funding could be affected.

“We have 66 districts all very content with the plans they have submitted. We have one district that submitted a plan, liked their plan, and then suddenly went back,” Corcoran said. “They have that right. Is it right by parents? Is it right by students? Is it right by teachers? No, it’s not.”

Districts that cover areas still in early phases of reopening from the pandemic will be allowed to start the fall semester with online-only learning, including Broward and Miami-Dade counties, but DeSantis and Corcoran have argued that Tampa has recovered significantly more than those areas.

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