MELBOURNE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was joined by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran Thursday to detail plans for the upcoming fall school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We want schools fully open in the fall because there is no better way to educate our kids than have that great teacher in front of that child," Corcoran said.
Corcoran and DeSantis stressed the importance of multiple people helping to come up with a safe reopening plan for schools to allow for this to happen.
As part of the plan to safely reopen schools in the fall, DeSantis announced that $64 million will go to Florida schools to close achievement gaps caused by COVID-19 related school closures.
$20 million will be used to adopt the best reading curriculum with $15 million being spent to train and develop reading coaches for schools and $223 million will go towards early learning, DeSantis said.
Also during the Thursday news conference, DeSantis announced that the AAU Junior Olympic Games and the Florida Sunshine State Games will be held in Brevard County. The games will be held during the fourth week of July and first week of August.
The Junior Olympic games were previously set to happen in Virginia, but due to COVID-19, those plans were changed. The announcement was made at the Viera Regional Community Center in Melbourne, Florida.
"This year they were going to be in Virginia. Virginia, because of the COVID-19 situation up there, they did not want to hold it. Because of the short time frame, there was nobody else able to take this on. Brevard County Stepped up, we agreed to provide some funding," Peter Cranis with Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism said.
First Coast parent Laura Webb supports the decision for in-person classes to resume in the fall. "I don't think a virtual environment is ideal for anyone," she said.
Like thousands of other parents, she's had to pull double duty as a mom and a teacher when Duval County Schools went online earlier this semester. She has two children who attend elementary and middle school
"I think they miss the group interaction with their peers. I think they miss someone qualified to teach them other than a mother who is trying to juggle working full-time," Webb told First Coast News.
DCPS teacher Chris Guerrieri spent more than two months using Duval HomeRoom - DCPS's online learning program.
Because of recent changes, he believes there may be more training that needs to happen before the morning bell sounds again.
"We are going to now have to understand what we are doing for social distancing, what we are doing with distance learning. There's a lot of things that are going to have to go one and not a lot of time to get them done," he said.
During a news conference on June 3, DeSantis announced that 64 of Florida's counties will move into Phase 2 of the reopening process. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are excluded from Phase 2 for now, Desantis said.
This Phase 2 reopening process began on June 5, allowing for bars, movie theaters and other entertainment venues to reopen. Under Phase 2, bars can reopen with a 50% indoor capacity and full capacity outdoor seating with social distancing, bowling alleys and movie theaters can reopen with a 50% capacity.
DeSantis also said restaurants, retail stores and gyms currently operating at 50% could go to full capacity while continuing to practice social distancing.
The news conference was held at Universal Studios Citywalk in Orlando, Florida. During the update from the NBC Sports Grill and Brew, DeSantis gave the latest coronavirus numbers. The news conference comes two days before Universal Orlando's planned reopening.