U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence are seated prior to the start of an event on the reopening schools amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order on Monday requiring “brick and mortar schools” to open at least five days a week for all students in August. The order mandates that school reopenings remain consistent with guidelines from the Florida Department of Health and that district reopening plans are approved by the state’s Department of Education. On the following day, Florida reported over 7,000 additional COVID-19 cases, while several hospital intensive care units reached full capacity.

The same day as the emergency order, President Donald Trump tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” He accused Democrats of keeping schools closed to in-person learning for “political reasons.” A senior Trump administration official told reporters this morning that “it’s important to consider schools as high priority settings within the community given the unique and critical role that they play in our society.” A series of events focused on school reopening strategies were held at the White House throughout the day. 

The White House cites CDC guidance, as well as an American Academy of Pediatrics report emphasizing a “goal of having students physically present in school,” as reasons to support reopening. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stated that schools must be “fully operational” amid the coronavirus pandemic and that anything less would fail students and taxpayers. Still, senior administration officials acknowledge that local jurisdictions, not the federal government, hold authority over school reopening decisions.

Educator and parent responses to Corcoran’s emergency order have been mixed. Miami-Dade County Public School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho referred to the reopening strategy as “fair and measured.” The district published a press release stating that the physical return to schoolhouses in the fall “will not be possible” while the county remains in Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan. In Orange County, teachers cited concerns regarding their own safety and the safety of students. Wendy Doromal, Orange County Classroom Teacher’s President, said, “I think it’s irresponsible and dangerous considering the surge of cases we’re seeing. Not just the state but, Orange County specifically.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Florida will require schools to reopen in August despite a surge in coronavirus cases – CNN – 7/7/2020
The state’s Commissioner of the Department of Education, Richard Corcoran, issued an emergency order on Monday requiring all “brick and mortar schools” to open “at least five days per week for all students.” Florida, which initially avoided the worst of the pandemic in its first few months, now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US at 206,000 and counting.

Florida Department of Education orders all its schools to reopen campuses in August after coronavirus closures – Fox News – 7/7/2020
Schools in nearly every state closed in March amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Most school districts provided online teaching for the remainder of the school year. The emergency order from the Florida Department of Education is temporary, however, and will only last through the fall semester.

FL Patch Survey: Too Soon To Send Kids Back To School – Miami, FL Patch – 7/6/2020
Patch readers overwhelmingly said in an informal survey that it is too soon to send kids back to Florida classrooms. Asked if Florida schools could safely open, 64.8 percent of 733 respondents said it’s still too soon for schools to do so safely. Only 28.7 percent of respondents said they believe schools can safely reopen.

Florida Department of Education Orders Schools to Reopen in August – Breitbart – 7/7/2020
“There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride,” the order states, emphasizing that the reopening process “must be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health, local health officials and supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Brad Parscale on Twitter, 7/7/2020: School closures disproportionately harm minority communities. President Trump knows it’s time to reopen the schools NOW! But Biden will always prioritize the demands of teachers unions over what’s best for America’s students.

The White House on Twitter, 7/7/2020: “CDC is prepared to work with any school district or school to work through our guidance so that they can come up with their own unique plan to reopen. ” More from @CDCDirector Dr. Robert Redfield

Nikki Fried on Twitter, 7/7/2020: Parents I have spoken with are terrified. There have been no guidelines, no flexibility for parents or school districts, and no protections for teachers and students. We need to get #COVID19 under control before we force our children back into schools.

Scott Maxwell on Twitter, 7/7/2020: My son was supposed to start college at a Fla. public university this fall. Yesterday, we were told all but one of his in-person classes were canceled for health reasons. The same day, Florida announced a 5-day-a-week return for primary-school students.

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