Despite COVID-19, FL Education Commissioner hopes schools can be ‘back to normal’ in the fall

By: - March 17, 2021 12:55 pm

Teacher with students, in a classroom. Credit: Getty Images.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Wednesday that he hopes for a return to normalcy for schools in the fall.

Does that mean all kids will be in traditional schools in 2021-22?

There wasn’t an answer at the mid-March meeting of Florida’s Board of Education.

Corcoran and board members tried to project what the school year will look like in 2021-22, with many unknown variables still at play. As of now, the COVID-19 pandemic continues, while thousands of residents are getting vaccines to ward off the virus.

Some families are still not sending their students to brick-and-mortar schools, instead doing online learning at home. Parents still have a choice to continue  remote learning for now, though the state has mandated that traditional schools be open.

“We have got to get parents comfortable. The objective is that we will be, hopefully, in the fall, back to normal,” Corcoran said at the meeting.

Whether families will have the same access to remote learning for next school year, is not clear. Corcoran did not provide further details.

And the trajectory of the pandemic is not fully known.

The growing number of more-contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus muddies the picture. Florida has the largest number of the more-contagious variants in the nation.

In addition, healthcare workers warn that activities from spring break could also contribute to a spike. The worry is that students on spring break will be careless about social distancing and safety protocols.

And schools still have COVID cases.

In a Florida Phoenix analysis of data from the state Department of Health, Florida’s K-12 schools have totaled almost 84,000 COVID-19 infections since early September through March 6 among students, teachers, staff, and other cases.

On the other hand, teachers and staff now have access to the COVID vaccines from federal vaccination sites and some retail pharmacies. As vaccines become widely available to more of the general public, which will further limit community spread of the virus, there is some sense that Florida is inching towards a sense of normalcy.

But the exact timeline is still uncertain.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.