ORLANDO, Fla. — Brick-and-mortar schools must reopen in August and provide "the full panoply of services," the Florida Dept. of Education announced Monday.
What You Need To Know
- Florida school campuses must reopen 5 days a week
- Schools must provide full services
- They also must report student progress
- Order does include provisions for waivers under specific circumstances
- READ: Florida Dept. of Education Executive Order
An emergency order by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said that "upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students," with advice from state and local health departments.
The schools must also provide all services required by law, including in-person instruction, and specialized instruction and services for students with IEPs (individualized education program), along with English-lanuage learners.
The school districts must have a monitoring system in place to make sure students are not falling behind in their studies and are making adequate progress, and that data must be shared regularly with Florida DOE.
All school districts, charter school governing boards, and private schools that accept state scholarship money must submit a reopening plan to the state that satisfies the state's requirements. The districts also must make efforts to close any achievement gaps caused by closing the schools earlier this year.
Online learning must also be provided, with instruction at the same levels as existing at brick-and-mortar-schools.
Schools have been closed since March because of the pandemic, but school districts were supposed to continue student education online.
Waivers possible under certain circumstances
Several school districts in the state are surveying parents on how they want students to continue learning in the new school year, be it in school, online, or in a hybrid format.
Online and "virtual" learning was a challenging course for many students and teachers this past spring.
That’s why high school teacher Jenn Devine believes this executive order makes sure no students are left falling behind, regardless of the schooling format they might need.
“The focus of it seems to be on providing students with all of the different services that the school system offers," said Devine.
That includes the option for families to keeping their children's education virtual if needed.
The order also empowers school districts to make their own decisions if changes in the pandemic present a need to close.
Finally, the executive order suspends the 180 education day minimum for academic school years, so schools don’t have to make up for lost time if they have to close.
Concerns over safety remain
Still, others expressed concern about the safety implications.
“While we know that face-to-face learning is optimal, CTA will not support a reopening plan that could expose students, teachers or their families to illness hospitalization or death," said Wendy Doromal, President of the Orange County Teachers Union. "Lost academic time and lessons can be made up - a life cannot.”
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings echoed that concern for his grandchildren in the Orange County Public School District, but feels optimistic.
“The healthcare experts are giving an abundance of guidance to our school districts in order to be able to do it," said Demings.
Though Devine is also worried, she’s worried most about her students’ needs.
“It’s a little bit daunting, but teachers have had a lot of daunting things in the past where it’s made us a little hesitant to go, and we’ve been able to power through those," she said.
While there's been much concern about whether it is safe to reopen schools across the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics last week called for schools to reopen, saying the mental and physical benefits of being in a class outweigh the potential risks of the coronavirus.