Flanked by coaches, athletes and politicians, Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday used sports to emphasize his support of school reopenings.
DeSantis called the extracurricular activities “critical” for maintaining discipline and achieving college scholarships. Without them, he said, students will face “huge effects.”
At a press conference at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, DeSantis drew on his experience as a competitive baseball player and eventual college athlete at Yale University, recalling the sense of self-purpose learned as a student athlete.
“These are moments they are not going to get back,” he said. “I am standing with our coaches and our athletes. This is something critical.”
Meanwhile 345 miles south, state officials and Florida’s largest teachers union were locked in a legal battle over an order requiring schools to reopen for in-person instruction. A Miami-Dade County circuit judge heard arguments Thursday afternoon in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association against DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and other defendants, alleging that a July 6 order issued by Corcoran violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public education.
The governor and Corcoran asked the judge to toss out the lawsuit, calling it a “misguided effort to obtain a judicial mandate that forbids any school in the state from providing in-person instruction to any student.”
Corcoran’s order requires all school districts to reopen brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week sometime in August.
After hearing from lawyers on both sides, Judge Spencer Eig ruled with the state and granted that the case be moved to Leon County, as it involved an “issue of statewide importance.” Eig said it would also expedite the case.
At the press conference Thursday, Corcoran said school reopening “should be about choice and options.” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was also in attendance.
Florida’s Department of Health on Thursday confirmed 7,650 additional cases of COVID-19, pushing the state’s known total to 510,389. There were also 120 Florida resident deaths announced, bringing the statewide resident death toll to 7,747.
According to department data, 39,735 youth under 18 years old have tested positive for COVID-18, 436 have been hospitalized and seven have died. Children aged 14 to 17 make up the biggest block of cases.
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report. Miami Herald education reporter Colleen Wright contributed to this report.