Aug 10, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Press Conference Transcript August 10
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on August 10. He discussed flexibility for parents as schools are set to reopen. Read the transcript here.
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Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:05)
Well, good afternoon. I’m glad to be here at a Winthrop College Prep Academy and excited for what you guys are doing to have a safe and successful school year. Of course, we have commissioner Richard Corcoran, John Hage, who runs charter school USA, principal Dr. Chris Hamill. We’ll let everyone chime in here in a minute, but here in the state of Florida, we really believe in empowering parents with having a choice about the upcoming school year. There are going to be some parents that would prefer to remain in distance learning and they have the right to do that. There’s a lot of parents who really want their kids to have an opportunity to get back to in-person instruction. So we want to see that as an option for students and parents throughout the state of Florida. What they’re doing here in with this Winthrop Academy, I think is really cutting edge.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:59)
I think it’s really innovative. And we were talking earlier about you go back when I was in school, you miss school because you’re sick, you just miss. Now that they kind of have all the technology and the distance component, even when you’re in person, if someone is sick, you have the ability to probably just watch the classes. I know that’s what they’re going to do here. So it really helps students not falling behind when they do have to do it. But what Winthrop is doing is saying, “Okay, we understand the situation we’re in, but we’re going to figure out a way to make it work. We’re not just going to say we can’t. We’re not going to say no. We’re going to do everything we can for these kids’ future.” And I think this is the first day some of the faculty are back, John, you were saying, and I feel the buzz. People are excited.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (01:48)
They really want to be back. They understand while the distance learning may have been something that needed to be done at the time, there’s no substitute for that in person instruction. I know they’re really chomping at the bit to get back. And so you feel that here. There’s definitely a sense of excitement. I think part of the reason there’s a sense of excitement is because you guys have done so much to make this a safe environment, whether it’s the classroom configurations, whether it’s allowing some students a flex schedule where they do some distance during the week or split it between in person. These are things that I think really show the creativity and just a can-do spirit about, ” We’re going to make this work. We’re going to get it done.” And I think the effects on students, it’ll be interesting to hear from some of the panelists today about their experience.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:43)
But I’ve spoken with teachers who are just concerned about the achievement gaps that’ll likely continue to develop without having that in person instruction. I’ve heard from a lot of parents about, yes, that the academic component, which is very important, but also just the social and developmental aspects of being in school compared to having to always be at home. And I think that’s especially true for a lot of our low income families. I mean, you have families in Florida, you may have one single mom that’s got three kids in school and she’s got to work. I mean, there’s just no two ways about it. And having an option like what they’re doing here really can mean the world to a lot of parents like that. So we understand the importance that the school plays for so many folks throughout the state of Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (03:35)
And just the tutelage, the mentorship that you see through a TV screen or computer screen, there’s only so much that you will be able to do without having that in person instruction. So I’m very much supportive of parents having the option for distance learning. I think they got to make decisions that they think is best for themselves and for their families. And we want to continue to empower folks with that. But we also understand that there’s a lot of parents who do believe that the in-person is essential. And we want to make sure that they have the ability to exercise a meaningful choice as well. So I think what Winthrop is doing really shows a great path forward and I commend you for what you’re doing. It’s really exciting to be here. We’ll turn it over. We’ll let Richard, our commissioner, make a few comments. And why don’t we just go around the horn and introduce everybody? And you all talk about what’s on your mind.
Richard Corcoran: (04:38)
Thank you, governor. First, obviously I’m very impressed with the school and what you guys are doing. I’m very excited about how you’ve given that choice. The whole point I think that the government laid down from the get go was trying to give as much parental choice and as much flexibility to the districts to provide the need for all students and all forms and how they come, recognizing not all parents are equal. Not all children equal. They all have different, come from different learning modules, abilities, and what have you. And so that the school system should be able to give that parental choice and have that flexibility to make sure they’re meeting those children’s needs and maintaining safety. I think it’s also really impressive being here that there’s always silver linings and all these adversities that we have. And one of them is I think you’re seeing for the first time where you could, in a regular day pre COVID, if you were sick and you were at home, you missed that day of school.
Richard Corcoran: (05:30)
And now with these innovative models, that child can be sick at home and still be participating with his classroom and not miss any days of learning. And so that’s fantastic. And those are some of the things I think that when we come fully out of COVID will have a lot of innovations that will continue to help our students grow emotionally and academically. I always say, and I know the governor says that his children, God bless him, are all under the age of three under five. I’ve been there. That’s tough sledding, but I too have six children. All my children are in public schools. I have two in high school, one in middle school, two in elementary school, and one in university. All six of my children are going back to their campuses because we’ve made that decision that we think that’s best for them.
Richard Corcoran: (06:13)
So I think that’s the important part about this experiment that you guys are doing is you’ve given just three great modules of learning for your students, and you’re allowing them to interchange. If they want to start one way and come back in another way in the middle of the semester, then they’re able to do that. And that’s how we ensure safety and also how we ensure great learning. So I think it’s fantastic what you guys are doing. Thank you.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (06:40)
You want to start? Okay, go ahead.
Speaker 1: (06:43)
Thank you, Governor. Well again, thank you for joining us. We’re really thrilled to have you here and to be able to showcase what we’re doing here at Winthrop College Prep Academy. You see some elements behind us of our mobile classroom. Not only have we leveraged the digital divide, we’ve leveraged the people. Our staff is on onsite today training for the first day and their energy is just contagious. And that really speaks volumes to the industry being such a socially based industry. We love working with students and to work with them physically and socially distance classrooms or mobilely through our digital devices is huge.
Speaker 1: (07:21)
One of the things that we have included this year at WCPA is in our success block, we’re focusing in on our social emotional curriculum attitude and altitude to help our students camp down some of the anxiety, some of the depression that has come out of the pandemic and help them kind of, if you will, return to a more normal traditional school environment. But the staff is excited. We have a building that allows us to socially distance. We’re opening with ninth and 10th. We’ll have about 50% capacity at the school. So we certainly have more than enough space to physically distance. And then you add in our digital component to it. And we are definitely ready to serve the students wherever they may be.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (08:05)
Great. Do you want to … Or do you want to go to Nicole?
Speaker 1: (08:10)
Nicole Lowman: (08:12)
Okay. My name is Nicole Lowman. I’m a social studies teacher here at Winthrop. I’m super excited to begin this full year with the three different models and especially going back into the classroom. One of the main things as me as a teacher, I definitely came in as a teacher to be impactful. A teacher has impacted my life and has completely really changed me and who I wanted to be. So I wanted to do the same exact thing. I saw through the virtual learning that we weren’t actually able to really do that as much because a lot of my kids wouldn’t come into any of those Zoom meetings or they would just do everything at eight, 9:00 PM. And yes, I was still available to talk to them, but to able to actually connect with that social learning and being able to do those three models here at Winthrop is just super exciting for me.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (09:07)
Alyssa Wiley: (09:10)
Hi. My name is Alyssa Wiley. I am also very excited about what we’re offering here. I’m also a parent of two young boys myself and distance learning was very difficult. So I understand that for parents, you have to make a hard decision right now. I’m sending my kids back to school because I believe that they will be safe and I will do everything I can to come to work and to be there for the kids that need me here with all of these social and emotional issues that we’re seeing, the depression, the anxiety, but in order for me to do that, my own kids have to go to school. So the system needs to work together that we’re very excited to have our kids back here shortly.
Speaker 2: (09:50)
My name’s [inaudible 00:09:51]. I’m a parent. I just want to say thank you for allowing me to be able to send my daughter back to school. My daughter is a highly academic teenager. She’s in the Cambridge program. She has dreams of going to Yale University. And when this pandemic hit, she told me everything was over. She lost all hope. She was convinced that the world that she knew it was coming to an end. And I think for our teenagers it’s hard for them to understand this pandemic. It’s really, really hard on them. And for her, she needs to be in a face to face environment. She needs to see that you can still go to school. You can still learn. You can still have hopes and dreams. You still have a future. Our nation will get passed this pandemic and she really needs that. And I’m just grateful. And I just want to say thank you for allowing her to be able to have the opportunity.
Shy Foreman: (10:42)
My name is Shy Foreman. I am the college and career counselor. And so this is actually my first year working in secondary education. I’ve worked on the higher education side. So really just excited to connect with these students. One thing that I’ve been really appreciative, so we’ve been doing one-on-one student interviews with all of our students to build their schedules. And so being able to conduct that with Ms. Wiley and to kind of hear parent relief as they elect what choice they are interested in, but then letting them know that there is that flexibility. So if we have a student who elects to do the mobile learning, but then they’re struggling, that’s completely okay for them to come on to campus or vice versa. If they feel like they’ve come in contact or how to exposure to the virus and then feeling like, “Okay, I can’t do traditional right now. I’d like to do mobile learning for the moment,” I think that’s equally as great. So just allowing our families to be autonomous in their decision making.
Speaker 3: (11:40)
Governor, I just want to thank you as well. It was an honor to serve on the opening task force, the reopening task force. It’s an honor to have this school and the leaders we have. Across the charter school USA system in Florida, about 65 schools, about 60,000 students, and we’re trying in every case to give choices. Where we can’t do that, for example, in South Florida, we’re going to try to move when the data starts to give us that opportunity to move into that form.
Speaker 3: (12:03)
We’re going to try to move when the data starts to give us that opportunity to move into that full. But here in Hillsborough County, where the data has shown for weeks that we’ve been in a very good position and that’s getting better each day, even though that we want to be prepared for all options. So we gave parents and teachers options. So in the parent’s case, about 60% of our parents have chosen in this school to come back in some form of in-person learning, either in full time or in part time.
Speaker 3: (12:27)
About 40% of those families have chosen to stay with a mobile learning environment. And we’re excited that our teachers have chosen that they want to come back and teach. So we’re really excited because we think we can do this, and we know we can do this safely. We’re watching the international data, we’re following the best trends. We already have schools in other parts of the country who’ve opened up in the last two weeks, and we’ve already watched that data.
Speaker 3: (12:48)
And we believe that we can be an example for doing this appropriately and putting kids first. My last point is that we talk about workers that are essential. Teachers are essential workers, but students are essential. And I don’t think we’ve focused enough on how students have to become essential back into our everyday lives. And as a dad of six, I can tell you as well that our kids have to come first. And so we’re making the same kind of choices to put our kids back in school.
Speaker 3: (13:17)
So we’re excited that you’re here today and for your leadership and we all, as a nation can do this carefully and constructively and putting the parents and the students and our staff all in the same place of doing it safely.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (13:33)
Great. Well, I thank you. Just got a couple of questions. So Nicole, your fellow teachers, are they excited like you are to get back and then they feel the need to really have that in person instruction again?
Nicole Lowman: (13:47)
I think generally speaking, they are a little bit hesitant. However, most of my friend teachers are excited to get back to that being able to connect, face to face teaching, being back in the classroom and just excel in what we do as teachers and being able to impact, connect and essentially, inspire.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (14:14)
So as a parent, how did the distance learning work for you guys?
Alyssa Wiley: (14:20)
It was very difficult. Our oldest was in second grade last year and my husband is a Green Beret and we also own two small businesses, so he works a lot. So I was home trying to be a mobile guidance counselor with a rambunctious three year old and a seven year old who didn’t want to do anything but play on Xbox. And so to even find the time to sit down and I felt like I couldn’t do as good of a job as my son’s teachers could have done in school. And even now every day, “I want to go back to school. I want to go back to school.” And so we are just hoping that he will have the opportunity to go back to school here in Hillsborough County.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (14:59)
How was your sense of kind of the administration and the faculty? It seems people are excited to be back.
Speaker 1: (15:07)
They are. And I think the other piece that really kind of supports that in tamping down the anxiety are the protocols we can put in place to make sure our staff does arrive safely. We do temperature checks, we do that screening. And then for our students, we also temperature check every student upon arrival in the morning, we have an unrivaled process also.
Speaker 1: (15:27)
And then to foster that also, who is the deep cleaning procedures that we follow in the evening with our facilities team. They’re really the unsung heroes of this whole thing. They’re coming in and cleaning classrooms. We have Clorox fogging systems that fog entire rooms nightly. So they’re really taking it and kicking it up a notch. It’s an all hands on deck effort. And I’m just so, so proud of this team. We’re a young staff, they’ve been together less than a week. We had an initial training and now this is their first day on campus and they’re fired up and ready to go. I couldn’t be more proud as a principal of this crew. They’re awesome.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (16:03)
Great. Well, I thank you. I think you guys, what you’re doing is really admirable. I know you guys care about the kids and I know you want to see them succeed. And I know a lot of parents are happy that you have this opportunity. And I think that’s been my thing is we just need to empower parents. And some parents can see it differently, but the ones that want to have that instruction, we need to be there for them as best we can. And I think you guys are doing that. And I think also look, if you look at the trends in the state of Florida right now in terms of coronavirus, and these are not just blips at this point, these are sustained movements where our emergency department visits for COVID-like illness are back down to where they were in the middle of June.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (16:54)
As we started to see the increase. If you look at the percentage or the numbers of patients who are COVID positive, who were in hospitals, you’ve seen a real significant decline over the last two to three weeks, probably about 30%. You go to County like Pinellas, it’s close to 50% over the past three weeks. Hillsborough has seen declines in terms of the patients who are hospitalized. We’re seeing increased discharges. The admissions are down from where they were a month ago.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:28)
If you look at the percent positivity of tests, and I think that there’s reason to not hang our hat on that, just given the way this stuff’s reported. But nevertheless, imperfect as it may be, we were at 15% at the peak. We got down into the 11, 12, and now for new cases, we’ve even gotten down to two in the 8% range, and you are seeing the same in South Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:55)
We have point of care testing in one of our main test sites in Miami Dade, and that is showing 10, 11% positive for symptomatic test takers. I think Brower has been single digit for the last five days. Palm Beach has been single digit. So I think they’re going to continue to move in that direction. And obviously we want to continue to see that. We’re also mindful that it’s an uncertain time. But I think when you see these things over more than just a few days, you can see that these trends have been strong.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:29)
And particularly, people that show up to the ED. To me, I can double testing, I’ll get more cases. I have less testing, you’ll get less. So there’s different things that really have a lot of variables, but that’s like kind of one. If there’s a lot of prevalence in the community, as we saw at the end of June and beginning of July, you have more people that show up. When the prevalence goes down, you are people that show up to the ED. That’s just kind of a fact.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:58)
So that is an indicator that I think has been trending down really for a month straight now, after peaking on July 7th. And so we really appreciate that. As you have fewer people going to EDs, fewer people get admitted to the hospital and obviously, you’ll have more positive effects in terms of morbidity and mortality, which is obviously extremely important. So I think that should give you guys comfort in what you’re doing.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (19:25)
Obviously we get still got a ways to go. I mean, this is a marathon, not a sprint, but I think figuring out a way to be able to continue to, in this case, offer opportunities for students. You got to get to yes on it, and you guys are doing that. So, I thank you very much. And I told Richard, as we got through the last school year with distance learning, I said, “Well, look, obviously, we’ll see where we’re at in each district.” Because obviously we didn’t know how it was going to play out, but I was like, “We’ve got to give the private and the charter the ability to do it.”
Governor Ron DeSantis: (20:00)
Because I knew you guys would be able to really think creatively about it. And I think that’s what you’re doing now. And we look forward to seeing how the school year goes, but thanks for all your hard work, we really appreciate it. Does anybody else have any parting shots? Final comments?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (20:16)
Okay. Well, great. Well, final thing I’ll say before I take questions is there’s a number of our student athletes are now speaking out about the need to have a college athletics. They want to play, and I support their efforts to do so. Not just football, which is very important in the state of Florida, but all our men’s and women’s sports. These students work their whole lives to be able to get to this point. And they shouldn’t have their season taken away from them. There’s never anything you do in life that is entirely risk-free. I think the risks in this case to them are very low, but I think that they can make that assessment for themselves. And I look forward to seeing all our student athletes be able to compete at the collegiate level this year with that, we’ll take some … yes ma’am
Speaker 4: (21:03)
Governor, shouldn’t decisions about education made at the local level? The Hillsborough County school board talked with healthcare professionals and they decided it was best to delay in-person learning. Why is your commissioner going against that?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (21:17)
Well, I’ll let him weigh in. I said from the very beginning of this, there is going to be flexibility. I told school districts, if you don’t think you’re ready on your normal date, you need to move it back, move it back. And I think that we should be flexible and you should be attuned to the circumstances on the ground. At the same time, some of this stuff is just not debatable anymore. The fact is in terms of the risk of school kids, this is lower risks than seasonal influenza. In terms of their ability to spread it, they’re less likely to spread it than they are for that. And so that’s just kind of where we’re at on that. And so then beyond that is really a policy decision about how important is it to get students back in the classroom and how do you balance that against not zero risk, but I would say, would be low risk.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (22:12)
And so most, I think of the school districts have said that we need to give parents the choices and we need to do everything we can to do it. But I’ll let Richard speak specifically about the four weeks.
Richard Corcoran: (22:25)
We agree. In fact, everything that we’ve put out has been very, very clear. Even in the emergency order, it’s been very, very clear if you read it that we recognize that the local school districts are in charge, and what we did was work with them. We worked with the superintendents, we worked with their chief financial officers and they came to us in the summer and said, “We’re in a real predicament.”
Richard Corcoran: (22:43)
And so we came up with an emergency order in conjunction in collaboration with them that gave them complete flexibility, So they would have certainty on how the funding worked. They would have certainty on what options would be able to be given to children. They had flexibility for charters and private schools. And so we’ve given them that flexibility and they can absolutely make whatever decision they want. They have that opportunity.
Speaker 5: (23:07)
Let’s have another question, please.
Speaker 4: (23:09)
If they don’t open the schools [crosstalk 00:11:13].
Speaker 5: (23:13)
Jeff, go ahead. Thank you, [inaudible 00:23:14]. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (23:14)
I just want to know what happens if Hillsborough doesn’t listen to what you said?
Speaker 6: (23:20)
Yeah, what would happen if they don’t open? You’re saying they need to open. So what would happen if they follow the school board and they don’t open? [inaudible 00:23:30] not here?
Richard Corcoran: (23:34)
The opportunity to open our close is 100%, we’ve given that flexibility to the locals. And that was what the emergency order did at their request. At their asking us to say, “Hey, what do we do if we need to come up with an innovative model? How does that funding work?” And so we did an emergency order that gave them that flexibility.
Speaker 6: (23:51)
So they can open. They could be fine if they were to open for four weeks only online?
Richard Corcoran: (23:58)
It’s at their discretion.
Speaker 7: (23:59)
What are the possible repercussions here, if they choose to keep going with this four weeks-
Speaker 7: (24:03)
What are the possible repercussions here if they choose to keep going with this four weeks of online learning?
Richard Corcoran: (24:04)
That’s what we came up with the emergency orders because if you go to strictly a virtual model under the existing law without the emergency order, then the funding is less. And so we did the emergency order so that those locals would not have to worry about getting funded less. It was to give them the true flexibility to be able to serve every single person here in this room. Some want to go back to the in person school. Most teachers want to come back. Most students want to come back. All of that flexibility, fine. Give them all that flexibility and we will fully fund you and won’t even count the October count to give you that much flexibility. It was 100% to give choice and flexibility to the districts. And that is why you have every single district up until this point last week with Hillsborough.
Richard Corcoran: (24:52)
Hillsboro themselves two weeks ago was in complete agreement. Now they’re the only district out of 67, only district except for those in phase one that the governor mentioned, every other district is doing exactly what the emergency order gave them the flexibility to do. And they’re doing it with great fanfare.
But I think the people in Hillborough are saying that the numbers here are reflective of the one in Brower and other places in south Florida that it’s just as bad here and that they want them to listen-
Richard Corcoran: (25:20)
That’s also not true. I mean, let’s just be honest. I mean, that’s not true.
They’re asking their health department director and we’ve heard that health department director have been silenced by your administration.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (25:30)
So that let’s just be clear, the facts are the facts. To say that Hillsborough is similar to Miami or Brower is just not factually true. I can show you the number of people in terms of the hospitalization right here. Miami, Dade 1700 COVID. Now all of them are not being treated for COVID because they swab everyone that comes in. So the actual number of treated is less. So 1700 in Miami-Dade. You know how many in Hillsborough right now? 384. Do not say that they’re in the same boat as what’s happening in south Florida. I mean, the facts do matter on this and I understand different people can have different views, but let’s just kind of get the facts on the table in terms of what we’re dealing with here.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:15)
And I can tell ya Miami-Dade that superintendent, he wants to find a way. He understands that there’s limitations and understands that their community’s in a different spot, but as soon as there’s a pathway, they’re going to move very quickly to be able to do it. Like I said, we’re not at the end of the road here, but to say that there hasn’t been good progress particularly in the Tampa Bay area, that just wouldn’t be looking at the trends that we’re seeing. The fact is whether it’s CLI, whether it’s admissions, whether it’s hospital census, we’re going in a good direction and in this area and that’s just the reality.
Richard Corcoran: (26:58)
And if Miami-Dade Jeff, they’re opening up even though they’re in phase one, even though they have those numbers. On day one, they’re opening up face to face for children with unique abilities because they recognize there’s no way you can provide those services any other way effectively. And the consequences of not being face to face of not offering those therapies to those students is so much more damaging than any minimal risk of COVID. You have to look at it. We live in two paradigms. There’s the paradigm of risk of COVID. And there’s the paradigm you’ve heard today, you heard from counselors, you’ve heard from the career counselors, teachers, the paradigm of the risk of not getting these kids an education, a face-to-face education. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s the secretary general, whether it’s the CDC director, whether it’s Bill Gates, everyone is now seeing the consequences.
Richard Corcoran: (27:52)
The CDC director said there’s more deaths by suicide, more deaths by drug overdose in this population than all of COVID combined. That’s something that has to be taken into consideration. So what we did is we left it to parents, we left it to teachers and gave them that flexibility. And every district ought to take advantage of that flexibility so that they can provide full choice, full safety and full education for all of their students and teachers.
Flexibility for not school districts, but for people who use the schools?
Richard Corcoran: (28:26)
No. And the districts. If we didn’t give that flexibility to districts, they’d all be in this virtual model and not be able to get fully funded. That’s not acceptable. So we fixed that immediately. As soon as it was brought to our attention, we did an emergency order that said, “You’re right. We’re going to stabilize it, fix it,” had collaboration with them and that collaboration included face-to-face, virtual, distance, hybrid, all of the above. And that’s how we got to this point in collaboration with our districts, which is why Jeff, we have 66 districts all very content with their plans that they’ve submitted. We have one district who submitted a plan, liked their plan, and then suddenly went back. And they have that right. They have that right. Is it right by parents? Is it right by students? Is it right by teachers? No, it’s not.
Speaker 8: (29:10)
I was in a meeting and the school board was so happy with the plan that they approved the plan because it wasn’t compliant, because they needed a plan. The question that I have is there’s a lot of people here and they all agreed with opening, which is great because it’s choices, but I don’t see anybody here that doesn’t agree with opening and there’s a lot of patients that have concerns of this [inaudible 00:29:29]. What happened? Their voice doesn’t count? Why aren’t they invited to this meeting too?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:37)
Well, I think a couple of things. One is, what we want to say is, yeah, there may be parents that aren’t comfortable. You have every right to do virtual. Absolutely. And actually we did have a parent in our pre-meeting who said, “Thank God, you’re offering this flexible model. I’m in a situation where I want to continue with virtual. And as my situation with my son develops, maybe we will go in a hybrid or full.” So we actually did hear from some folks doing that and we want to empower that parent just as much as we’re empowering this parent to be able to have the in-person.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:11)
I, as a parent, this personally would not be difficult for me because I’ve just looked at the data and I’m comfortable it’s very low risk. If my kids were school age, I would send them. I said that a bunch of times, but I also understand there’s a lot of angst out there. There’s a lot of fear. It does us no good to tell a parent, “You go ahead and send your kid, if you’re not comfortable with it.” And so I think that that’s the right way to go, to recognize that people may have different levels of apprehension.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:37)
I mean, you have parents out there in Florida that would beat down the school house door to get their kids in because they really need to be back in. And then you have some others who maybe they just want to see how it develops. Maybe they think it probably be okay, but they want to see how the schools are handling and make sure they’re doing the protocols that you guys are doing. And then maybe there’s some parents that just say, “You know what? Ithink, I think we need to take some time,” and that’s fine.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (31:01)
All of those views and all those parents have the abilityto act on that accordingly. And I think that that’s the best way to go about it. But when you don’t offer any in-person, then you are denying those parents. And I would be willing to bet, I mean, you probably have a lot of the parents that really want the in-person more than anything. I don’t know what the survey of Pinellas or of Hillsborough was, but we were in Pinellas when we talked to superintendent. It was like two to one that wanted to be in- person there. So that would be denying a huge swath of parents the ability to make a meaningful choice. Okay. We got one more. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 9: (31:40)
I have a question for both of you. One for you governor and one for you commissioner. First question for governor, I think the decision at the board meeting for [inaudible 00:31:49] medical professionals all said that they should hold us back from full reopening. That’s what was said. What do you say to that?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (31:59)
I think I mentioned earlier. I don’t think anyone would dispute at this point as a medical matter, this is low risk for school aged children. It’s less risk, the CDC has pointed out much less risk than seasonal influenza. And I also think it’s pretty clear that the school children are not the drivers of community spread like we would fear with seasonal influenza. Actually Britain just did a huge study on this, you’ve seen it now, going about talking about it. I mean, it is really, really extensive. And they basically have said, “If you’re worried about students’ health, this is low risk. There’s many other things that are much higher, but two, the schools are not the driver of the epidemic.” And I think that’s pretty emphatic. And so at that point, unless you show me how that is not correct, it’s really a policy decision at that point.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (32:52)
It’s like, “Okay, here are the risks. Nothing’s risk-free in life. There’s nothing we can do that’s going to be zero, but the risks are what I would say low for the students, the risk of the schools being real drivers of the epidemic.” Certainly, that’s not been validated in the observed experience up to this point. So in that sense, you take that and then you have to look what are the costs of not offering in person and then make that judgment. But that is a judgment that you make more as a policy matter to say, “Okay, if they don’t have access to in-person, then what are the risks there?” And I think everyone from the CDC director to a lot of folks that have looked at it, say those risks there are more substantial than the risks there because it’s already low risk for the school children.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (33:41)
And then you do things to mitigate that even further by doing this innovative stuff. And so in my view, it’s a matter of how do you balance that. It’d be one thing if we were still searching for the medical answers to try to figure out… When we were in February, we weren’t necessarily sure. Even in March, we kind of knew that the kids were lower risk, but we weren’t sure about the transmission. I think we treated it like it was influenza and that was what the information we have now. But I think we have the information as a medical matter, and then it’s just a matter of balancing out about the harms. I mean, Richard’s talked about things like suicide, depression. I think we were talking with some of the parents and the teachers just about the toll it takes on mental health for these kids to not be able to go in and socialize and be a part of something and to be stuck at home day after day.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (34:37)
And on the flip side of that, I’m sure there’s a lot of kids that really aren’t at home and are actually going out and doing things anyways. So in that case, wouldn’t you rather them be in a structured environment? To me, this is one of the safer places because you have people that care about them, looking out for them to do that. So I think it’s just a matter of how do you view the risks of not giving the parents the options. And so I think what we’ve arrived at is the best possible situation given what we’re dealing with. The parent is empowered to make those decisions, those parents who would view that balance differently.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (35:11)
And there’s some times where that balance based on the student’s circumstances may be a little bit different. I mean, for example, if you have a child that’s got real significant health problems, lung problems, some of those, that may be something where being more isolated would make more sense and it would outweigh the risks of not being able to go. Absolutely. And there may be some parents that just, they’re not comfortable because it’s more novel and all that. And that’s fine too, but that’s really, I think something to say that you’re not going to offer at all, then you’re basically ignoring all of the risks of not offering and not giving those parents the ability to do anything. You have some for Richard?
Speaker 9: (35:56)
[inaudible 00:00:35:54]. We’re hearing some charter schools not offering any different option than the brick and mortar. They don’t have a plan for kids that wear masks. They haven’t submitted any-
Speaker 9: (36:03)
The first order, they don’t have a plan for kids to wear mask, they hadn’t submitted anything. Are you okay with that? We’re hearing from actually local charter schools that are just offering just the brick and mortar, I think not having a virtual often for parents that want to do e-learning, they’re being told to leave the school because of funding. What do you say to the charter schools or any school? That’s not giving options that they’re sticking to that traditional brick and mortar without any plans?
Richard Corcoran: (36:26)
[inaudible 00:36:26] has encouraged everyone to give those options to parents? That’s what we’ve said from day one. And so I think all schools should be considered to give those options. We’ve had entire districts in the state of Florida in the North Florida region where the cases are so low and so insignificant that they literally talked to us about not submitting a plan under the executive order, because they would just go full bricks and mortar. And we encourage them to, you never know, to the governor’s point, you can have one child that has a lung issue or some sort of issue that they ought to have that choice too. And so we’ve worked with the state districts, and we’ve worked with all the charters and private schools and encourage them to give students options. And I think that’s an important thing. We would encourage them to do so.
Speaker 9: (37:10)
So if they don’t give an option, is there any penalty or anything? I mean, they’re giving no option and they’re just doing traditional brick and mortar, no masks, no safety plan or anything. That’s okay?
Richard Corcoran: (37:22)
I mean, if you have specifics, examples you want to send to us, I’ll look into them too. And if there’s a parent that’s out there that feels like it’s a difficult choice for them, then by all means we’re going to try to help them. I landed at an airport the other day, and there was a lady and she got introduced to me and you’ve heard this, I think you said it about the under-reporting of abuse is down like 37, 40%. Nobody believes that abuse went down 37, 40%. these are the consequences. And so this mother, she and her husband had a child who was victimized at a young age. And she was literally just pleading to get the schools open in her County. Cause her daughter suffers from great depression and great anxiety as a result of this assault, and where she functions best, where she flourishes fastest is when she’s around her peer group.
Richard Corcoran: (38:12)
Those are the cases. You know, my wife went to a small business the other day, and it’s a small business that a woman just started, single mom, she and her husband got divorced. She started a small business. She’s invested her life savings in it, and she has school aged children. If she can’t have that option, she’s going to close down her dream. And what does that mean to her family in terms of consequences, health wise and socially? I think what the governor has laid out, and what we have done is to say maximum flexibility, maximum certainty on funding, and choice. And that is a great system. I think every district should embrace it. And I think you’re seeing every district for the most part is, is embracing it because it’s a great system.
Speaker 10: (38:53)
Thanks everybody. We really appreciate it.