Florida's Education Commissioner has indicated remote learning will be allowed to continue next semester.
At a State Board of Education meeting in Tallahassee on Wednesday, Richard Corcoran said he's working on preparing an extension of the current Emergency Order and he hopes to have it finished by the end of the month, possibly even before Thanksgiving.
Corcoran said it will offer parents "full control" over how their children attend school and that Gov. Ron DeSantis will accept nothing less.
"We will have full parental choice," Corcoran said. "From the top down in this state that will absolutely happen. There's no flexibility for anything but that. The governor will take nothing less than full parental choice," Corcoran said.
He said the new order will allow the same learning options offering this semester including in-person and online classes.
Corcoran said statewide about 60% of students are back on campuses but he understands that option is not for everyone.
"There's going to be parents or guardians who have health issues," he said. "We've got to protect those."
Board member Michael Olenick said COVID-19 has become personal.
"I know people who have died from COVID in all age groups," he said. "I know people who are sick from COVID and with that is a fear. I think there is a fear with many students, faculty, parents and that fear is warranted."
Olenick warned against any push to force students back into classrooms in person too soon.
"We want the 'brick-and-mortar' experience for them, everybody does," he said. "But that decision should be the parents' decision."
Olenick said the state prides itself on "school choice" — usually in connection with charter schools or private school vouchers — and it is important for that choice to extend to learning options during the pandemic.
Speaking to the Board of Education on behalf of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Wakulla County Schools Superintendent Robert Pearce said the need for remote learning is necessary as COVID-19 cases continue.
"We have every intent of continuing our distance learning platforms, that are unique to each district, going forward. We applaud you continuing that," he said.
He also outlined what he called "critical requirements" for the success of schools including stable funding; continued access to distance learning; investment in educator salaries; increased mental health services for students; and a re-examination of standardized testing for students and the assessment and grading of schools.