Group of local parents, educators call out Gov. Ron DeSantis with open letter

News4Jax | Maggie Lorenz | July 12, 2020

A group of Duval County parents and educators are calling out Governor Ron DeSantis for his comments over the weekend that having kids go back to schools is the right move. 

During a press conference, DeSantis said it’s a good idea and children will be better off in school.

He said an achievement gap developed in the spring due to online learning, and that there are huge costs for not providing the availability for in-person schooling.

The parents and educators also wrote a letter to Superintendent Green and the school board, urging them to carefully consider the reopening plan and to encourage online learning. 

News4Jax reporter Maggie Lorenz was on a Zoom call with a group of five Duval County parents and educators, who sent the letter to the Duval County School Board on behalf of hundreds of other parents and teachers they said they collaborated with. 

Their message is ”no in-person school reopening plan is a safe reopening plan.”

“We want to be back in school,” said DCPS teacher Chris Guerrieri

But this group of local teachers, parents, and professors.. said Florida’s spike in positive cases makes in-person learning unsafe.

“When we closed the schools the first time, we were having a few hundred cases state-wide. Yesterday, we had 15,000. So comparing what we did then to what we’re doing now, it really doesn’t make any sense,” said Guerrieri.

“The kids are our priority, but it’s not just going to affect the kids,” said DCPS parent Rolline Sullivan.

DeSantis said this weekend the risk to children contracting COVID-19 is minimal.

The Florida Department of Health reported Friday more than 17,000 kids have tested positive for COVID-19. 

“We have 129,000 kids that are going to be walking through the doors of our public schools,” said teacher and parents Stacie Dern. “We don’t know what’s going to happen when we get 130,000 kids in one place.”

Chris Janson, a UNF professor with kids in Duval County schools, said the current reopening plan will exacerbate the disproportionate effects the virus is already having across communities of color. 

The letter reads: “When any amount of in-person learning is an option, we will see schools disproportionately fill. Families with means to do so will keep their kids home, and vice versa”

″When the plurality of students in Duval County Public Schools are African-American, when the majority of students, in fact 2/3 of students, are students of color, and we know that infection rates are up to three times as frequent in black communities and the lethality is just at a different scale,” said Janson. “It’s a frightening prospect.”

The state’s order does not give teachers a way to opt out like parents can, and said little about how school districts should protect the teachers and staff who are more vulnerable than children to dying from the virus.

You can read the full letter here.

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