Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says it's 'critical' to have sports for students during coronavirus pandemic

State officials say athletics improve student GPAs, school attendance, graduation rates
Gov. Ron DeSantis talks sports at UNF, Aug. 6, 2020
Posted at 10:57 AM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 14:24:00-04

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Just weeks before students across Florida are set to begin the 2020-21 school year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hopes local school districts will allow sports to take place.

"I think it's important, I think it's critical, that we have boys and girls sports available for our students," DeSantis said on Thursday during a COVID-19 roundtable discussion at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says it's 'critical' to have sports for students during coronavirus pandemic

The governor said that when school districts in Florida abruptly switched to distance learning in March to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, youth activities and sports stopped.

"Those are moments they're not gonna be able to get back, particularly the seniors," DeSantis said.

At Thursday's roundtable discussion, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said students who are involved in athletics perform better in school.

"Student athletes' GPAs are higher. Student athletes' graduation rates are higher. Student athletes' attendance rates are higher," Corcoran said.

Corcoran added that he believes there is a way to safely offer high school sports and maintain a safe level of competition.

"All of those things teach them life lessons that make them better spouses, better community leaders, better business people, better employees and employers," Corcoran said.

"The cancellation of the sports, that has huge effects," DeSantis said. "We don't want to relive that because it would be depriving our students of opportunities."

The governor addressed the 2020-21 school year at Thursday's roundtable, saying that while he feels students should be learning in classrooms, ultimately, parents should have the freedom to make decisions about their child's education.

"The parental choice is really the bedrock of the state's approach," DeSantis said. "If a parent prefers distance learning, by all means they have every right to opt for distance learning. But for parents that really want to have that face-to-face instruction, we want to every parent in Florida to have options for that."

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Back To School | Coronavirus

According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 510,389 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 7,747 deaths.