STATEWIDE — As online learning kicked off Monday in districts throughout the Central Florida and Tampa Bay areas, Florida's education commissioner told districts that schools across the state should stay shuttered through April.
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Officials in several districts said Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran made the recommendation during a conference call Monday afternoon.
Soon after, school districts in Seminole, Volusia, Hillsborough, and Flagler counties confirmed that their students won't return to physical classrooms until May 1.
Flagler said that policy may be re-evaluated before then.
Previously, the state had said schools would be closed through April 15.
On Monday, with social distancing continuing to disrupt daily life around the state and nation, digital learning began in many Florida school districts. But some rural areas in Florida don't have as widespread access to internet at home. Districts have tried to deliver paper materials as needed.
Most students in Orange County had district-issued Chromebooks before the coronavirus spread, paid for by a county tax initiative. This school year saw the addition of 140,000 more laptops for students.
Parents are being told, their kids should plan for 30 to 45 minutes of instruction, per class.
Some lessons will be self-paced. Others, will be live, online.
Charter Communications has temporarily opened its live stream free to the public. You can watch Spectrum News via our live stream on your desktop or laptop without a subscription by visiting our website and clicking “Watch Live” in the upper right. Charter also is temporarily offering free broadband and wifi access for 60 days to teachers and families with K-12 or college students. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. The company also will open more than half a million wifi hotspots across the country.
Other districts have had to play catchup with getting laptops to students to meet the online learning demand.
In Lake County, the district has about 31,500 Chromebooks for students to use at home and a new shipment will supply around 6,000 more, according to school officials.
Parents with computers are asked to let their kids use them for schoolwork, so the district’s supply can stretch even further.
Seminole County has limited its laptop handouts to families whose kids are in the free or reduced lunch program and do not already have a laptop, pointing to “limited resources.”
Some 30,000 children there come from low-income families.
All across the board, districts are handing out paper materials to students with limited or no internet access.
In the Tampa Bay area, more than 200,000 students start online learning Monday in Hillsborough County, the Bay area's largest district and eighth largest nationwide.
Superintendent Addison Davis said after the district's "Set Up for Success Week," the district was ready to handle the challenge, and asks parents to make sure kids are getting plenty of breaks throughout the day as they learn from home.
"Create a schedule for your learner. Make sure there is structured time everyday where they are interacting with their teachers, interacting with their assignments. We also want to make sure they aren't there looking at a screen all day, everyday," Davis said.
Raymond James Stadium COVID-19 test site to reopen
The Raymond James COVID-19 community testing center will re-open on Wednesday in Tampa. The call center will resume taking calls for appointments Tuesday.
There are 1,541 test kits.
The site was open for three days last week. It closed Friday, one day earlier than originally scheduled.
More road checkpoints being set up
Florida is working to set up more highway checkpoints to deter travelers mostly from New York from arriving in the state, and further spread the new coronavirus.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday the screening of travelers on Interstate 95 will be similar to the measure adopted Friday on Interstate 10 to discourage travel from Louisiana, an area seeing a large spike in cases.
On Interstate 10, the Florida Highway Patrol and sheriff’s deputies are setting up checkpoints to screen cars from Louisiana and require travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days. It’s not clear how the Interstate 95 screenings will be organized.
The new travel restrictions follow the governor’s order on Tuesday that visitors flying in from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are to self-quarantine for two weeks under threat of a 60-day jail sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to the article.