ORLANDO, Fla. — Class was in virtual session for thousands of students across Central Florida Monday, although some struggled with technical issues.
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Most of the school districts that started distancing learning Monday acknowledged reports that students were dealing with connectivity and/or program issues. Some of the districts blamed the issue on the sudden influx of students to the virtual software programs.
With thousands of students using the system at the same time, district leaders say there will be challenges, but they’re working to solve those for the coming days.
“We need just a little bit of patience around log-ins and any kind of technology glitches. Principals get information, teachers relay to principals those concerns and our technology staff are on it,” Orange County Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said.
Schools across the state have moved to distance learning, per the Florida governor's order. On Monday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told school districts that distance learning would continue through the end of April. At least one district, Flagler County, said it may re-evaluate that timetable to see whether students could physically return to class before May 1.
The emphasis was on digital learning in school districts throughout the state Monday, but some rural areas do not have as widespread access to internet at home. Districts have delivered paper materials as needed.
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. At least one school district, Orange County Public Schools, says it will track attendance by student log-ins.
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.
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.
In Orange County, one-third of elementary school kids do not have laptops, and many of those students also do not have internet at home to use. But that doesn’t mean they’ll miss out on lessons.
“We’ve got a hybrid model there, some of our children are getting packets. Over 13,000 (packets) mailed out last week to those that do not have digital devices at their use,” Jenkins said.
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.
Statements on Technical Issues from Central Florida School Districts
NOTE: Sumter County began distance learning last week. Marion County starts distance learning on Wednesday.