WALTON COUNTY FLA. (WMBB) — Some Florida senators are calling for students to not head back to school starting August 10.
They want to see fewer cases of COVID-19 before school reopens for the fall.
Despite their concerns, the governor and education commissioner said it is ultimately up to parents if they want to send their students to go back.
Many superintendents in the panhandle are making plans for students and school workers’ safe return.
“It’s important that parents have the ability to make a choice,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “If they are not comfortable, the last thing you want to do is shove people in if they are just not comfortable. But we have some parents that really want the kids back in school. They think it’s important.”
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran agrees.
“Being in front of a great classroom teacher, in that room with the interaction between the peers, is absolutely the best learning environment for a student,” said Richard Corcoran. “So, we want to maximize that to the extent possible, given the circumstances.”
But as officials press forward, Florida Senate Democrats are calling for the start of school to be delayed by a month, until the COVID-19 positivity rate in testing drops to 5% for 14 consecutive days.
According to the Florida Department of Health, more than 13% of tests were positive just on Tuesday.
“We cannot even control an outbreak of lice in our schools,” State Senator Janet Cruz said. “So how are we going to control not spreading this virus?”
In Bay County, more than 9,000 parents responded to a Bay District Schools survey asking if parents would send their children back to class, and 80 percent said yes.
“We bought thousands of masks, thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer,” said Bill Husfelt the Bay County Superintendent. “Maintenance right now is installing the dispensers around the schools,”
In Gulf County, there will be a new air filtration system and ultraviolet lights installed to hopefully kill the virus.
“I think we’re going to do a yeoman’s job of being very proactive in keeping ours the cleanest and safest they’ve ever been,” said Jim Norton the Gulf District School Superintendent.
Jackson County officials have also determined its guidelines for welcoming students and staff back to school.
“We do all we can do, we’re doing all we can do I think to keep our students and our staff safe,” said Larry Moore the Jackson County Superintendent.
In Walton County, school officials said they are still waiting to see how many students will be attending in-person classes before they finalize classroom plans.
“Here’s the thing, of course, we do want our kids back on campus,” said Russell Hughes the Walton County School District Superintendent. “But we want them there safely. And you have a choice. If you don’t want your child back on campus, you don’t have to send them back on campus. The choice is yours.”
Parents are given the choice for their students to return to in-person or two other digital options for this upcoming year.
They must let the Walton County School District know what they decide by Monday, July 20.