Orange County schools prepare for distance learning to combat spread of coronavirus

Digital learning to include physical materials, school-distributed laptops

ORLANDO, Fla. – As coronavirus concerns have prompted the closure of all public and private schools until at least April 15, school administrators are scrambling to produce educational materials and set up online courses to resume classes from a distance.

“Our education system as we knew it simply does not exist today,” Orange County Public Schools superintendent Barbara Jenkins wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday. “I still believe our teachers and staff will creatively provide the best possible support to our students in the coming weeks.”

In many Central Florida counties, some middle and high school students already use laptops and mobile devices to access coursework, making the transition to remote learning a bit easier.

To assist younger students and others who are unable to do school work online because they do not have internet access at home, some districts are trying to provide laptops and wifi hotspots.

In Orange County, all middle and high school students will utilize the school-distributed laptop given to them at the beginning of the year. Jenkins said elementary students may have to pick up laptops from their respective schools. Those details are expected to be released in the near future.

[RELATED: Brevard schools, teachers ‘scrambling’ to implement online education due to coronavirus | Students worry about what possible remote learning will look like in light of COVID-19]

Some districts also plan to utilize digital learning with physical materials to educate students from afar.

“It could be learning packets,” said Scott Howat, Orange County Public School’s chief communications officer. “We mail the packets out, the students complete the work and send it back with self-addressed stamped envelopes. It will go back to the school and be graded by the teachers.”

Orange County's superintendent acknowledges plans will continue to evolve.

"I know staff are frustrated with these rapid changes, as are our parents and families,” said Jenkins. “Admittedly, we don’t know all the answers, but we are working to find them.”

About the Author: