TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida’s teachers union called on Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday to keep campuses closed through the end of the school year, saying the coronavirus outbreak “presents a threat we cannot control.”
Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, said in a letter to the governor that teachers have “risen to the challenge” of conducting their classes online since campuses closed last month and there is no reason to reopen them until the virus is under control.
“The potential damage that could be done to families and entire communities from an outbreak of COVID-19 at even one school far outweighs the inconvenience of continuing distance learning for the rest of the school year,” Ingram wrote.
DeSantis suggested last week that he was considering reopening schools next month because children have little risk of dying from the disease, drawing criticism that such a move would endanger staff members and parents who are older or have health problems. Florida has more than 4,500 public schools serving 2.7 million children. They employ 180,000 teachers.
DeSantis said at a Tuesday news conference that he is not going to reopen the schools until it can be done safely and any decision will be done in consultation with superintendents and parents. He said schools will be discussed by a task force on reopening the state that he intends to appoint this week.
“It is not just going back to school at the end of May for a couple weeks — we are talking about what the fall semester is going to look like for K-12, what is it going to look like for our universities? What needs to be in place?” DeSantis said.
Florida has more than 21,600 confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 570 deaths with more than 3,000 hospitalized.
Also Tuesday, DeSantis announced that the federal government has approved 52,000 small business loans totaling $12.5 billion for Florida. He said some Floridians who have lost their jobs have started receiving the $600 weekly federal unemployment supplement.
“Everything is teed up and ready to go,” DeSantis said about the loans. “That is going to be a really important lifeline for Florida’s small businesses, which have really been hit hard.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.