FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Broward County school leaders have announced a plan for the start of the upcoming school year.
During a school board workshop Wednesday, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie announced that the school year would begin with students learning online.
“Our only choice is to open our schools with 100% e-learning,” Runcie said. “The only way the district will be able to open our school buildings is when the community has lowered the number of COVID-19 cases. We owe it to our kids to get this pandemic under control so that we can fully open our school buildings.”
Runcie also announced that parents would have the option to choose evening classes for their children, which could help them juggle work and helping their children learn.
“We’ll have a morning schedule that may go from like 8 [a.m.] to 2 [p.m.], but we know that there are parents that may be working. They need to be there with their young kids when they get online, so we’re actually going to offer an evening schedule with the same courses, same curriculum to accommodate those parents as well,” said Runcie. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to start the school year on Aug. 19.”
Some students will be given access to in-person teaching including students with disabilities and others who use English as a second language, some pre-kindergartners as well as career and technical education students.
“Those are our special needs students who are in self-contained classrooms in separate day schools,” said Runcie. “Our plan is to have them on campus for about three days a week.”
Runcie explained why in-class learning isn’t an option for the majority of students, despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order to reopen schools.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Florida chapter, which represents about 2600 pediatricians, wrote a letter to the governor suggesting that you shouldn’t open schools in areas where the infection rate is above 5%,” he said. “Right here, in Broward County, we’re over 16%.”
Also on Wednesday morning, the Broward County School Board kicked off a virtual workshop where they went over scenarios to give teachers and staff members a better idea of what classes will look like in the fall.
“Our biggest focus this summer is making sure that all of our teachers are trained in best practices in online education and that they’re going to deliver a very different experience come this new school year,” Runcie said. “Our teachers will deliver the best e-learning experience possible.”
“It is five hours of daily interaction between teachers and students,” said one teacher.
Older students can expect to conduct in-home science experiments, and parents of younger students were given an example on what their child’s classes will look like on Wednesday.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also agrees students, teachers and staff should not return to their school campuses until they are safe.
“Today, based on that set of criteria and metrics, it would not be appropriate for us to bring students back to school,” Carvalho said on CNN. “We have a positivity rate today of 19.2%. The critical issue impacting hospitals specific to ICU bed capacity is at 132%. That tells us that the conditions are not currently appropriate for us to be able to teach kids, but at the same time, safeguard their well-being and their health.”
He also took to Twitter to express his disappointment in the Florida High School Athletic Association.
This comes as the association decided to keep their scheduled start date for fall sports as July 27.
Carvalho said it is unfair for student athletes in South Florida who cannot start training due to the pandemic.
While Carvalho said the positivity rate is too high, a final decision on the opening of schools in Miami-Dade has yet to be announced.
“My intent is to make a final announcement to the community sometime between July 29 and Aug. 3,” he said.
The governor, meanwhile, hopes more districts will open and allow families to choose between the classroom and a computer. He also said there is a downside to virtual learning.
“I believe we owe every Florida parent a choice to send your child back to school for in-person instruction or to opt to maintain distance learning,” DeSantis said. “[Virtual learning] disproportionately impacts the least economic affluent Floridians, foster more social isolation, depression and anxiety, yet I also understand the apprehension that some parents may feel, and I believe in empowering them with a choice.”
He said further, “You have the right to maintain distance learning. That’s fine. We want to do what parents want. We have a lot of parents that think that their kids will fall behind if they’re not able to get back inside the classroom.”
School clubs will still be an option for students, but they will also have to meet virtually.
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