ORLANDO, Fla. — Multiple public school districts in Central Florida are mulling comprehensive plans for how they will welcome back students this fall amid a surge in coronavirus cases statewide.
Here's a breakdown of our county public school districts meeting this week and their latest decisions on how they will handle the return to class. Private schools have their own independent plans.
Orange County Public Schools announced in a press release Monday that it will be offering distance learning classes to all students from August 10 to August 20 through its LaunchEd@Home model.
The school district said the nine days on LaunchEd will allow staff and students to become comfortable with the LaunchEd platform.
Then August 21 will be the first day that students in the face-to-face model report to their school campus, with nine days of school already completed online.
OCPS said it would default to the LaunchEd model "should a classroom or school need to pivot from face to face during the pandemic."
The Orange County School Board passed a preliminary plan for reopening its schools that asks the state for a waiver to retract it if the local coronavirus pandemic situation makes returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms unsafe.
The school board also wants to form an advisory board that will likely be the entity to decide whether it's safe to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Parents have until Monday, July 27 at 5 p.m. to choose a back-to-school option for their child.
Brevard County schools will start back on August 24, the school district announced Tuesday.
District administrators met with the school board last week to lay out their plan for getting schools back up and running. Ultimately, the Brevard County School Board voted unanimously to approve its plan to reopen schools this fall, but it may be adjusted over time as issues arise.
The Seminole County School District last Tuesday evening voted in favor of offering parents and students several options for fall, which includes classroom learning, online learning, Seminole Virtual School, or a hybrid. It passed in a 4-to-1 vote.
The school board also voted to push back its school start date to August 17. The deadline for parents to choose a back-to-school option for their child is July 24 at noon.
On July 17, the state Department of Education said it had approved the district's return-to-school plan. It said Seminole County Public Schools was the first district in the state to submit its reopening plan for approval.
The Osceola County School Board Tuesday evening approved delaying the start of the school year to August 24 for students.
Teachers and other employees will still return to work on August 10. The two additional weeks are meant for the district to monitor data and work toward improvements, according to officials.
Parents protesting say they’re happy the date is being pushed back and hope this time is used to continue monitoring the pandemic. But they're also asking the district to take a step back and hear them out.
“We need to go back and do virtual learning for a moment until we can iron out the best and safest way for us to have our students return safely," said Tamika Lyles, who organized the Tuesday demonstration.
All teachers for Osceola County will be on campus, some will teach face-to-face with students, and others will be teaching digitally from their classrooms.
Osceola County Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace hosted a Facebook live to ask some questions from staff.
“We have written letters already prepared to help guide our principles. We have an outlined protocol,” Dr. Pace said. “This is the decision tree that we’re following, and it comes from this website FloridaHealthCOVID19.Gov, to help us with those decisions.”
The superintendent said teachers should be talking to their principals if they are high-risk or have any health conditions and absolutely need to teach online.
— Stephanie Bechara
The school district has pushed the start date for Lake County public schools from August 10 to August 24, the district announced Tuesday afternoon.
Teachers are still due back August 10.
"The extra weeks will provide additional time for teachers and staff to plan, train and prepare. It also gives district leaders more time to monitor local COVID cases in collaboration with the local health department," spokeswoman Sherri Owens said.
Parents and guardians in Lake County have until Wednesday, July 29, to choose between four reopening options for their children. The options are traditional school, a modified day that includes traditional and virtual, full-time Lake County Virtual School, or Lake Live, a structured virtual learning environment the mirrors traditional school.
Brick-and-mortar classrooms and buildings will be open five days a week. Families can also choose a full-time online option and a modified hybrid option.
The school district says choosing an option doesn't lock you into that choice.
Flagler school administrators are considering three options for student learning in the fall: traditional school, virtual school, and a remote learning model.
On Tuesday, July 28, the school board voted 4 to 1 to start the school year on August 24. The superintendent wanted the extra time to train faculty and staff on new safety procedures, and to make sure they are adjusted to the new learning environments.
The district has posted a Return to School Guide on its website that addresses a variety of concerns, including face coverings.
The Sumter County School Board on Tuesday tentatively pushed back the opening date of school from August 10 to August 17. But it may revisit the start date next week if conditions warrant, Sumter County School Superintendent Richard A. Shirley said.
Sumter is offering parents these options (each requiring a 9-week commitment):
- Traditional instruction with enhanced sanitation protocols
- TEAMSumter, which is a new structured e-learning program with daily schedules and teacher interactions matching a typical school schedule but students participate from home. This is a transitional program that will end in December unless the district needs to go full “e-learning.” TEAMSumter offers fewer advanced and career and technical-education options.
- Sumter Virtual, which is totally computer-based with telephone conferencing with teachers. Students must be self-motivated, independent learners. Home education students can also participate, Shirley noted.
— Kevin Connolly
Volusia County's school board on Tuesday night voted to push the school year's start date to August 31, the latest of all the Central Florida districts, and approved a live-stream option of instructors teaching in a classroom for students at home.
There are three options for families:
- The first is traditional brick-and-mortar classroom learning, with enhanced cleaning and safety measures;
- The second is called Volusia Live, which is a hybird option in which students could virtually contect with their teachers;
- The third is Volusia Online Learning.
Similar to other districts, that option will now be sent to state education officials for approval. The idea behind this plan is it would keep the district from losing state funding for those schools.
Parents have until July 30 to choose an option for their children and send in the pre-registration form. The form for online learning is due Friday.
— Eric Mock
Marion County Schools leaders are offering two options for parents and guardians: a traditional classroom experience with added health and safety precautions, or a virtual learning model with standard bell times. Both models are explained in more detail on the district's website.
The deadline to choose is Wednesday, July 22.
Marion teachers return to school Monday, August 3, and students return to class a week later on August 10.
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