TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that closing school campuses in the spring as the coronavirus pandemic took hold might have been one of the nation’s biggest “public health mistakes.”
And, while appearing on the Drew Steele radio show, DeSantis equated people fighting the return of students to classrooms as the “flat earthers of our day.”
Florida shut down school and college campuses in March, with students shifted to online learning. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have pushed heavily to reopen classrooms for the new school year.
“In March we may not have had all the information, but in hindsight, knowing what we know now, the closure of schools was one of the biggest public health mistakes in modern American history,” DeSantis said. “And I think even Europe has said we shouldn't have closed up.”
In the interview with the conservative talk-show host, DeSantis said that as the virus surged in Florida in July, he fought against people who didn’t want to reopen schools because he expected the outbreak to abate and because children “are not vectors” for spreading the coronavirus.
“So, now we're at the point where the people who advocate school closures are really the flat earthers of our day,” DeSantis said. “They're not doing it based on data. They're not doing it based on evidence. They're doing it based on either politics or emotion. And so, the harm of school closures, I think, is really considerable.”
In August, the Florida Education Association argued in court that a July order by Corcoran to reopen schools would force teachers to “needlessly expose themselves to a deadly and contagious virus-based solely on a blanket and arbitrary decision that schools must reopen for in-person instruction or lose their funding.”
More than one million students have returned to classrooms across the state, DeSantis said. Schools in Miami-Dade County begin staggered reopenings on Monday, with Broward County schools restarting in-person instruction on Oct. 9.
“I'm a big supporter of homeschooling for those who want to do it. But you know, we've got a lot of blue-collar families and working mothers who have to go to work,” DeSantis said. “They just don't have the luxury of being able to do that. Taking away face-to-face instruction means their kids fall behind tremendously.”