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New DOE Order Preserves Distance Learning Option, Urges Struggling Online Learners To Return In-Person

Two men in suits speak in front of a microphone
Florida Channel
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, center, and Governor Ron DeSantis, left, speak at a press conference in Kissimmee, FL, on November 30, 2020

Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida’s K-12 schools will continue to offer parents the choice of remote or in-person learning through the Spring semester.

A previous mandate from the state Department of Education allowed districts to receive per-student funding for distance learners, which the governor and state education commissioner Richard Corcoran say will be preserved in a new order.

The new order keeps many of the same features as the one Corcoran issued in July, with some additions.

DeSantis made the announcement during his first in-person news conference held in weeks Monday in Kissimmee.

“It continues the requirement that districts offer in-person learning, and also contains the protections of school district funding,” DeSantis said of the new order. “Now, there is one new addition that I think is very important, and I think it was very well-considered, and it is this: Parents must be notified if a student is struggling with virtual learning.”

Corcoran says parents of students struggling with online learning will be urged to switch to in-person classes.

As the governor said, if you’re a parent, and you’re in a mode, and the districts are saying to you that your child is not doing well in that mode – then we want you to move them out of that mode and into another mode,” Corcoran said Monday. “And if the parent, maybe they have health concerns or other reasons … but as you heard from the superintendents, the growth in our enrollment and face-to-face instruction everyday grows.”

The governor says parents must communicate with their school districts to “affirmatively opt out” of in-person classes if they choose to use distance learning under the new directive. It comes as coronavirus cases in Florida have been on the rise, as they have in other parts of the country.

Statewide teacher union the Florida Education Association, which sued the state over its initial school reopen order, says it is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the subsequent order discussed today (Monday). In a statement, the union says Florida’s schools are ‘underfunded,’ but notes “the state’s support for students on-campus and off should remain stable this spring.”

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.