ORLANDO, Fla. – Spring break has been extended by an extra week for all Florida students due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran made the announcement Friday afternoon that students will not return to class until March 30 rather than March 23 as originally planned, according to a news release from the Flagler County School District.
“Keeping students healthy and safe is my number one priority, and that is why we are recommending that districts follow the CDC’s guidance for Florida,” Corcoran said. “We are continuing to monitor COVID-19, and I encourage all Floridians to remain informed and take the necessary precautions that have been issued by the CDC.”
Across the state, events have been canceled and residents have been warned to avoid international travel and cruises.
Many school districts had already taken steps to cancel all extracurricular activities but up until now, all Central Florida school districts had planned to resume operations as usual after the spring break vacation.
In Flagler County, superintendent James Tager said he and his team are working to figure out what the plan will be when classes resume at the end of the month.
“A decision such as this is not an easy one to make,” Tager said. “I understand this will put pressures on many of our families but the Flagler Schools team will be working to determine what, if any, services we can give our families the week following spring break.”
So far, Orange, Lake, Flagler, Osceola, Volusia, Brevard, Seminole and Marion county school officials have confirmed the closures for the week after the scheduled spring break.
“We do have a pandemic academic plan should we have to go beyond that time that we can enforce, so we can have our students continue their education. We are still (awaiting) guidance from the state regarding make-up days and graduations,” superintendent Dr. Ronald Fritz said.
Dan Smith, President of the Seminole Education Association, says teachers in Seminole County aren’t getting many answers when it comes to future plans for their schools.
“The teachers have a lot of questions and there is a lot of uncertainty. I’m not faulting the school districts, this is unprecedented and they don’t have a manual to go by," Smith said.
As part of the new orders from the State Department of Education, all extra curricular activities will be postponed for the next two weeks. All state testing will also be pushed back two weeks but SAT testing is still happening Saturday in Brevard County and Orange County. Osceola County has canceled testing for the time being.
Some parents are wondering if schools will implement online teaching if they remain closed for a longer period of time. Others are worried about finding child care and finances.
“With the school’s closing for another week, that will be more money spent for food, and the light bill will be going up because the kids are in the house. That would be more financial issues for us," said Ophelia Briggs.
“There was a time we all stayed at home and worked and we made adjustments. We just have to make adjustments. Will we help them," said Pete Wehry.
The Florida Department of Education also notified superintendents that anyone who goes on a cruise or travels to a foreign country during the break should self-isolate for 14 days. That includes students, faculty and staff.
According to the news release, the Florida Department of Education is also planning to push state testing back by two weeks.
Even before the announcement, Seminole County Public Schools notified students and parents that Charter Communications will offer free Spectrum broadband and wi-fi access to houses with kindergarten through college students who do not already have internet service.
“For millions of Florida’s children, school meals are the only meals they can count on. We are working closely with school districts to ensure that students have access to healthy, nutritious meals while schools are closed due to COVID-19,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “We are working with the USDA on authority to provide schools with flexible options to make school meals available. Most of all, we are standing with Florida’s schools and families to ensure no child goes hungry while schools are out.”
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