On Monday, the Florida Department of Education announced that all schools must open their brick-and-mortar facilities when classes reopen for the 2020-2021 school year in August.
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said that schools must be open at least five days per week for all students and will be “subject to advice and orders” given by the Florida Department of Health and other local health officials, as well as executive orders issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Corcoran’s order, which includes the state’s charter schools and other specialty schools, states that extending school closures can impede students’ educational success while keeping parents and guardians from being able to go back to work physically at their workplaces.
“There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride,” the order says.
According to Monday’s order, schools are also required to submit reopening plans to the Florida Department of Education showing their district’s plan to reopen fully and offer all services to students.
The order also requires school districts to disclose efforts to address achievement gaps and monitor students’ progress.
On June 30, the Osceola County School Board unanimously approved its “Ready. Set. Start Smart” plan for reopening on August 10.
You can see the entire plan – including how families can make their selection of one of three educational plans by July 15 – at the plan’s website: www.osceolaschools.net/StartSMART.
Superintendent Debra Pace said that three plans would be made available for the upcoming school year after 45 percent of families and teachers polled last month said they’d prefer to return to face-to-face instruction, and 30 percent said they’d like to go back to the digital learning from the spring, and 25 percent liked a blend of the two.
But with the American Medical Association giving guidance that, “Reopening schools this fall is an urgent national priority,” and that thanks to a “COVID slide” that 30 percent of student learning gains could be lost in reading if schools don’t reopen, and 50 percent in math, much energy was put into reopening the doors.
Working through its Back to School Task Force, which included health officials like doctors from the Nemours Children’s Hospital and Osceola County Health Department Director Vianca McCluskey, extensive precautions have been put in place to limit exposure and promote health and safety of students and staff.
If face-to-face instruction at school is selected, parents of students who are eligible for transportation will also register their child for a seat on a school bus at that time. Screening will begin at home — parents are asked to check for fever and symptoms, and keep students home if there are any.
Students will wear face coverings on buses and through most of the school day (schools will provide each student five of them), except when working independently at their desks if there’s space. Hand washing and sanitizing will be encouraged frequently.
And, of course, as CDC guidance changes, or if there are virus flare-ups, there could be changes.
“The plan for today is the plan for today,” Pace said.