TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Saturday students won't be returning to classrooms this school year.
Instead, all Florida students will continue learning from home. The announcement comes amid the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and nationwide pushes to continue social distancing and isolation to combat disease spread.
Students across the state have been learning from home for weeks as the distance learning was originally set to end April 15 and then moved to May 1.
Now, Florida students likely won't physically return to school until the fall.
"As we looked at the clock and we looked to see what it would look like, we’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning, it’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year we felt that that was the best decision to go forward," DeSantis said.
Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis praised the district and community for their effort during this time.
"I believed in my heart that it was likely we would not return to our school campuses for the remainder of the year but that doesn’t make it easy to hear the official announcement from the state," Davis said in a news release. "I continue to be impressed by the resilience of all teachers, support staff, school and district-based leaders, and the willingness to create special moments for students during e-Learning."
Davis stressed that wraparound services, like mental health counseling and grab and go meal sites will continue to be offered throughout the end of the school year.
In Pinellas County, Superintendent Michael Grego said about 98 percent of the district's students were engaged online.
"We are committed to continuously improve our supports for our staff, students and families with the ultimate goal of reaching 100 percent student participation," a statement read.
See statements from other Tampa Bay-area districts:
As for graduation ceremonies, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are the only two planning for in-person ceremonies at this time. Hillsborough schools booked the Florida State Fairgrounds for July 13 to July 23.
Pinellas County Schools issued a statement reading, "In an effort to preserve traditional commencement ceremonies for our students, the district is working with the Tampa Bay Rays regarding dates in June or July to host graduations if CDC guidelines and the Major League Baseball schedule allow. We recognize the importance of in-person celebrations and are working diligently to pursue this option. There are many details still to work out and we will provide updated information as it becomes available."
All other Tampa Bay area districts said they're continuing to explore graduation options.
Polk County is currently surveying students to gauge their preferences.
Just a few days ago, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida said they're both extending all-online classes through the summer semesters. UF students likely won't go back to class until Aug. 24.
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