School districts probe families on plans for spring semester learning format

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FDOE emergency COVID-19 order expires in December

New4Jax | by Joe McLeann | November 9, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As school districts across Northeast Florida near the end of a fall semester complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders are hoping to gauge the learning option preferences of families.

On the state level, the Florida Department of Education is also working through the enrollment data collected by the annual October survey and a department spokesperson told News4Jax on Monday that by mid-November the department will have a better understanding of how multi-platform enrollment will affect the spring semester.

“Florida school districts are projecting nearly 1.85 million students are either full-time or part-time in-person, which is nearly 65% of students,” said Cheryl Etters, the FDOE Deputy Director of Communications.

The FDOE emergency order issued July 6, which outlined how districts should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides districts financial continuity, expires at the end of the fall semester unless Richard Corcoran, Florida Education Commissioner, chooses to extend it.

Meanwhile, superintendents are faced with the challenge of allocating the correct amount of teaching and support staff resources based on the number of students in brick-and-mortar classes and those who will continue learning from home.

Here’s what we know about some of the districts’ plans for Spring 2021.

Duval County Public Schools

The school district in Duval County has been providing students three options: In-person learning, school-based virtual instruction through Duval Homeroom, and decentralized virtual instruction via Duval Virtual Instruction Academy.

A district spokesperson told News4Jax that DCPS plans on providing those same options for the spring 2021 semester unless something changes on the state level.

“As a district, we remain committed to providing the online option for our students through Duval HomeRoom for the spring semester, contingent upon any further directives, executive orders, or other impacts coming from the state,” DCPS spokeswoman Sonya Duke-Bolden said. “On that point, we are monitoring what decisions may come from the Department of Education or the Governor’s office as we move forward.”

The school board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on Monday.

St. Johns County School District

The St. Johns County School District has yet to announce any updates to its learning options for the Spring semester and, as of the publication of this article, had not responded to News4Jax’s inquiry.

On Oct. 7, Superintendent Tim Forson told families that the district would no longer allow students to transition to the district’s school-based virtual learning format without a unique, high-risk health factor.

“The high mobility of students this year has negatively impacted both the brick and mortar and school-based distance learning instruction,” Forson said in the message. “At this time, we can no longer support movement to school-based distance learning. We will always accept the return of students to campus for brick and mortar instruction although it may take some time to transition them back.”

Forson added that the mixed formats have been placing a higher-than-anticipated strain on classroom teachers.

The district also released a survey to parents to gauge their learning option preferences. News4Jax has requested the results of that survey.

Clay County District Schools

Posted on the homepage of the Clay County District Schools website is a link to a survey aimed at polling households on their plans for next semester.

“As the first semester is coming to a close, we are asking all Clay County District Schools Parents/Guardians to make a choice regarding learning options for their students for the second semester,” the message said. “Every family should complete this form, even if you are remaining in your current option.”

The responses are due Friday and will represent a semester-long commitment, according to the page.

The survey presents families with five scenarios:

  • Stay in their current status of Brick and Mortar, OneClay Online, Clay Virtual Academy or blended learning,
  • Return to Brick and Mortar from OneClay Online
  • Return to Brick and Mortar from Clay Virtual Academy
  • Enroll in OneClay Online from Brick and Mortar
  • Enroll in OneClay Online from Clay Virtual Academy

More information on enrollment in CCDS is available on its website.

Nassau County School District

Leaders in Nassau County’s school district didn’t immediately respond to News4Jax’s request for information and the last time the district’s superintendent provided an update on the pandemic to the website was Sept. 3.

Columbia County School District

In a Nov. 3 letter to families of students enrolled in the Columbia County School District’s school-based virtual learning format “Columbia Homeroom,” district leaders warned families that the format would not be available in the spring and encouraged them to prepare to enroll in the brick-and-mortar format.

“If your student is successful in Columbia Homeroom we will continue to support you through the rest of this semester, but you should begin to make plans for next semester,” the letter said.

When asked what (if any) alternative options would be provided to families in the Spring semester, Superintendent Lex Carswell told News4Jax, “those decisions have not been made.”