Although much of the media has targeted the state of Florida and its GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, for permitting children to return to in-person learning far earlier than most states, having started last August, The Wall Street Journal reports “data shows Florida started in-person learning without turning schools into superspreaders.”
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an executive order last July telling school districts to provide in-person learning as an option for families. He wrote:
School districts and charter school governing boards must provide the full array of services that are required by law so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick and mortar school full-time have the opportunity to do so; these services include in-person instruction (barring a state or local health directive to the contrary), specialized instruction and services for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or live synchronous or asynchronous instruction with the same curriculum as in-person instruction and the ability to interact with a student’s teacher and peers as approved by the Commissioner of Education.
Corcoran told the Journal that as of this week, 80% of students in Florida are now attending school in-person either full-time or part-time.
“Florida consistently has had lower rates of Covid-19 in schools than in the community at large, according to a data dashboard created by Brown University, data company Qualtrics and others,” the Journal noted, adding, “In the last two weeks of February, the daily case rate per 100,000 people was 22 among students and 15 among school staff, compared with 27 in the community, according to the data. In earlier periods going back to October, the student and staff rates were almost always less than half the community rate.
Corcoran concluded, “Having kids in school is the safest place for them to be. We did have a plan and it was based on facts and science.”
Robert Runcie, the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, the nation’s sixth-largest school district, echoed, “If we’ve been able to successfully open without any major outbreaks in our schools,” in a county with high infection rates, “I believe that it can be done nationwide.”
Last week, Runcie stated of the fact that health and safety protocols reputedly worked to stop schools from becoming COVID-spreader environments, “Given that reality, I would’ve opened schools earlier for face-to-face instruction but that’s Monday morning quarterbacking in hindsight. Because we know how important face-to-face instruction is for so many of our students, we know many students are not making adequate academic progress,” as NBC Miami reported.
Runcie also said last week that vaccines were a “game changer,” adding, “Our teachers want to be with our students, and students need to be in school. Those relationships cannot be replaced. Distance learning and technology can never replace that.”
In late January, a report from the CDC on 17 K-12 schools in rural Wisconsin was released. The Wall Street Journal reported:
A total of 191 Covid-19 cases were reported among the 5,530 students and staff over a three-month period. Seven of those cases, or 3.7%, resulted from in-school transmission, and occurred among students. There were no reported instances of child-to-adult transmission. During this time period, the positive rate in surrounding communities ranged from 7% to 40%. The report concluded: “Attending school where recommended mitigation strategies are implemented might not place children in a higher risk environment than exists in the community.”