Families around the state with children of school age have been waiting for the education plan for the fall semester. That plan has now come in. At a news conference in Viera Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, along with his Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, had a strong message for school superintendents around the state: open public schools this fall.

“The message should be loud and clear. We are saying, we have a strong recommendation to our superintendents, we want schools fully open in the fall,”he said. “There’s no better way to educate then having that educator in front of them. We are saying they are extremely low risk for contracting or spreading (COVID-19). All that data is in. Now let’s go and attack that achievement gap.”

Similar to Gov. DeSantis’ phased reopening of the state, there are three phases to the schools opening fully in the fall:

  • Step 1 – June – campuses open for youth activities and summer camps
  • Step 2 – July – campus capacities expand further for summer teaching
  • Step 3 – August – campuses open at full capacity for traditional beginning of the school year

The state has issued a comprehensive guide to reopening schools and how to use monetary resources to do so.

The plan also calls for state colleges, technical colleges and universities to open at full capacity for traditional start of the academic year in the fall.

There was no talk Thursday of protocols for students, teachers and staff in schools, like social distancing or wearing masks in class, at the press conference, at which DeSantis detailed how the state will utilize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal CARES Act funds to make sure there’s no learning slide going into the 2020-21 school year, but in the Governor’s full plan it states face coverings are not mandated, however, schools should explore strategies to utilize them, to the extent feasible.

“We will work together to use tools to find strategies to close the achievement gap,” DeSantis said. “Florida probably fell behind the least, our distance learning has been some of the most effective in the country. But there’s no substitute for that in-person instruction.”

DeSantis detailed a book-full of summer programs using that federal funding in order to have a 90 percent literacy rate in Florida.

“It’ll enrich these children’s lives. It’ll change our state and nation, and everything flows from that, more graduates, more professionals in the work force with high-skilled, high-wage credentialing,” he said.

Over $460 million has been earmarked for closing achievement gaps for tools to elevate best practices, such as seperate K-3 and K-5 summer reading programs design to halt any “summer slide” that teams up with two months of remote learning where it wasn’t successful.

DeSantis also quoted spending on 2,000 reading coaches and regional support teams, early learning programs, costs for day cares that stayed open and incurred costs to retrofit and sanitize their day care areas, transition to kindergarten programs, career and technical training curriculums and a number of  free ACT and SAT tests for the Class of 2021.

“We have a great opportunity to get back on great footing. Our students have been on tough footing the last few months, this is about getting back on our feet this school year is very important,” DeSantis said. “It’s important for parents who have juggled a lot of things.”