On Wednesday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed Floridians on schools reopening and the coronavirus pandemic. The governor said the following:
A number of school districts that launched in-person instruction this week and many more that are planning to open up over the next few weeks.
Martin County Superintendent Laurie Gaylord told me she viewed re-opening her schools as a mission akin to a Navy SEAL operation. Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County School system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning.
All in, all the time.
I know this is a challenging time and I want to personally thank all of our teachers and administrators who have worked so hard to provide these opportunities for our kids.
I know parents across Florida appreciate it too.
The superintendent of Suwanee County, Ted Roush, told me that never before in his 26-year career had he witnessed what he saw during the first day of school: Parents – not only bringing their kids to school – but also bringing presents and supplies for the teachers – as a way to say thank you…
Thank you for helping to keep society moving forward – to give kids the opportunity to learn – and to bring families what many want more than anything – a sense of normalcy…
The students are excited too.
Staci Wignall, a second-grade teacher from Baker County, reports that she enjoyed one of the best first days of school in her career.
Students are excited, respectful, and following safety guidance.
They are in a safe environment where they can have that connection to their teachers that distance learning cannot quite provide.
The return to school also reminds us that the role teachers play in students’ lives extends far beyond schoolwork.
Melissa Pappas is an elementary school teacher in Orange county and she put it well: “As educators, our responsibilities extend far beyond teaching academics. We offer solace to parents in need; we offer a safe haven to students who may otherwise know calm; we inspire, we assist, we support, we listen, we problem solve.”
My wife Casey frequently reminds me that teachers play a significant role in combatting child abuse. They often serve as our first line of defense against child abuse.
Calls to the child abuse hotline from April 2019 to April 2020 witnessed a nearly 40% drop. That represents a decrease of nearly 20,000 calls.
School is a safe haven for so many.
I know other school districts will be resuming soon and many are keeping a keen eye on various coronavirus indicators, which is understandable.
I would caution decision-makers to understand the value – but also the limitations – of some of the data that gets published.
For the past few weeks, Florida has seen sustained declines in new cases, visits to the ED for COVID-like illness, and the number of COVID+ patients who are currently hospitalized. We are not yet where we need to be, but we are encouraged by the trends.
Yet, today we all of a sudden saw a massive increase in new cases in Miami-Dade County, which had seen steady improvement for the last two weeks. Was this a sudden surge in new infections? No.
As it turns out, it was a data dump from a new private lab that included results from as far back as June. The data was stale. It was not indicative of current trends, much less a “record” day of fresh infections in Miami. Stale test results shouldn’t be used by policymakers to determine the way forward for students, parents, workers and businesses in the here and now.
I have instructed the DOH to remedy this. The point of collecting data should be to illuminate, not obscure, the facts on the ground.
As we move forward, we will continue to do so with confidence in ourselves, elevating facts over fear, and striving to protect the health of our seniors and the future of our children.
To our parents – you deserve the choice of in-person instruction or distance learning and I’m glad that so many school districts are making this vision a reality.
To our teachers and school administrators – thank you for refusing to let obstacles stand in the way of providing opportunities for our kids. This has been a difficult time, but I believe your hard work will do more than you know to get our society back on its feet.
To our kids – we are here for you. We want you to learn. We want you to compete in sports. We want you to participate in activities. You are the future of Florida.
To all Floridians – thank you for doing all you have done to follow state health guidelines. It is making a difference.
One goal. One Florida.
Thank you and God bless.