Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran revealed Wednesday that his six children will be going back to school in the upcoming academic year, opting for a traditional classroom experience and in-person instruction rather than an online learning program.
Corcoran’s words are significant as hundreds of thousands of families make one of the most important decisions of their lives as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the new school year looms.
“Every parent wrestles with ‘what are the risks of not sending my kids to school?’ versus ‘what are the risks of sending my kids?'” Corcoran said in a round-table discussion on education Wednesday. Gov. Ron DeSantis participated as well, with educators at a school in Clearwater.
“Obviously, I have six children — all of them are in public school,” Corcoran said. “All of my children will be going back to school in the fall.”
Corcoran has two children in elementary school, one in middle school, two in high school, and one attending the University of Florida this upcoming academic year, according to a Department of Education spokeswoman. All of his children will be returning to school campuses, according to Corcoran.
He did not illuminate whether the schools will be traditional public schools or charters that are public but operate independently, usually by private groups. Corcoran and his wife have been supporters of charter schools.
Corcoran’s remarks came after weeks of controversy over his emergency order that stated: “Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students.”
The order created consternation and concern because some school districts in Florida had been planning to include alternative instruction, such as online learning or hybrid programs that include both in-classroom and online instruction.
Corcoran reiterated that the emergency order he signed earlier this month allows parents to weigh their individual situations and gives each family a choice. He used his own family as an example.
“I also have a mother-in-law and a brother-in-law,” he said. “Both in very vulnerable situations.”
“I think [his kids] are going to be great going back to school but I also tell them ‘I don’t want you going over to Honey and Uncle Josh’s because that’s not safe for them.'”
Corcoran’s comments build upon a continuing dialogue about schools reopening in August, leading to a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association against Corcoran, DeSantis, and other public officials.
The FEA is demanding measures to ensure students and staff will be safe at a brick-and-mortar school, such as reducing class sizes, adding more staff, ensuring schools have enough protective equipment and supplies, and adding plexiglass shields.
At the same time, online learning has faced numerous challenges after schools closed last spring and students had to learn online at home.
Some children didn’t even laptops; others didn’t always go on the computer. Some parents struggled to help their students with difficult assignments, and educators were still tackling remote-learning technology. And studies showed a loss of learning gains that can impact student achievement.
In several public appearances, DeSantis has stated that if his children were old enough to be in schools, he and his wife would feel comfortable sending them to school campuses.
Currently, his children are too young to be in schools and critics are skeptical of the value of his sentiment given the fact that he does not have to make the decision.