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Florida schools to stay closed through semester, Gov. Ron DeSantis says

Public sentiment had been strong to continue distance learning until Covid-19 is under control.

Saying distance learning is working well enough for now, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday announced the state’s K-12 schools should remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

“We felt that was the best decision,” said DeSantis, explaining that he had consulted with school leaders and also heard from many residents.

Most state education leaders had anticipated this move to come on Monday. They were caught off guard, but not surprised, by the decision.

DeSantis’ previous order had called for campuses to stay shuttered through May 1. But after saying he might consider sending students back “even for a couple of weeks,” if it’s safe, the pushback came fast and furious from educators, parents and others.

Several groups, including the Florida Education Association, launched petitions urging the governor not to act rashly. They gained thousands of signatures in days.

Related: Keep Florida campuses closed until school year ends, teachers union urges DeSantis

Moments after the governor’s decision, feedback started pouring in. It was largely positive.

Parents logged in with comments like “Smart move” and “Thank goodness” on Facebook posts.

District and teacher union officials shared that sentiment. They said they are ready to continue with remote education.

It’s certainly not ideal, said FEA vice president Andrew Spar, who praised the governor’s action. But educators will do all they can to help students through this period.

“It’s a great decision by the governor,” said Hillsborough County superintendent Addison Davis. “This is the least disruptive decision for both our students and our employees.”

Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning said he would have liked to have had a normal end to the school year, but added it was clear that couldn’t happen.

“I’m confident our teachers and administrators will continue to be sure the kids get the education they need to be ready for the next school year,” Browning said.

Related: Florida students will suffer learning losses this spring, educators say

Pinellas School Board chairwoman Carol Cook agreed that it makes sense not to take chances with the health of children or school employees. She anticipated the learning will improve as everyone grows more comfortable with the interim model.

Still, she said, it’s sad for high school seniors who likely won’t have any formal celebrations.

“We’ll just have to make it special for them,” Cook said.

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