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District leaders ask for patience as Orange County students transition to distance learning

Students experience technical difficulties on first day of online instruction

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County students returned from spring break Monday and began their first day of distance learning, a measure put in place as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread through Central Florida.

Chairwoman Theresa Jacobs thanked students, parents and teachers for their patience and continued efforts in transitioning to distance learning.

“For our students, we understand that you never planned on spending your spring break social distancing or in isolation,” Jacobs said. “Teachers, we are grateful for your commitment to your students. You’ve demonstrated it in so many ways already. We are grateful for your willingness to take on this challenge of educating through distance learning.”

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Jacobs acknowledged the challenges many parents are facing with the added responsibility of having children home during the school day.

“Parents, we understand. Some of us have children in school and are going through the same struggles you are going through,” Jacobs said. “Create structure for your children for them to feel safe during these confusing times. And above all else, be patient with your children.”

District superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins addressed the technical issues many students experienced when logging into their first day of distance learning, something she said would be resolved with time and trial.

“This morning at 8:45, we had 50,000 logins,” Jenkins said. “I say that number because it will grow higher, but I want folks to understand the sheer volume, because we had more than 50,000 students that had the capacity right now. Here’s what I want to stress: We need just a little bit of patience around logins and any kind of technology glitches.”

Jenkins said students across the state are transitioning to distance learning in coming days, in addition to the 200,000 students in Orange County. She said glitches are to be expected and that technological issues will improve with use.

Jenkins advised any students or parents with questions about distance learning to visit OCPS.net.

Breakfast and lunches are being provided to children 18 and younger as part of a grab-and-go program to keep children nourished during school shutdowns.

[RELATED: Here’s how Central Florida schools plan to tackle distance learning during the coronavirus outbreak | Florida schools offer free meals to students during extended coronavirus closures]

“Last week, we averaged about 100,000 students, families coming through with students, at our 50 various sites,” Jenkins said. “That means if they’re getting two meals at a time, a breakfast and a lunch, they go through over 200,000 meals distributed last week.”

Beginning April 1, meal distribution hours will be consolidated to best serve students in need, according to Jenkins. Meals will be given to students from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While it is still unknown when schools will return to normal operations, Jenkins addressed the district’s plan for graduation.

“The second most common question we have is around graduation,” Jenkins said. “I need to say for the record: It’s too early to call but we are waiting. We are looking to see what’s being done across the state, but it is too early to say whether or not we will be able to host graduation … the bottom line, again, will be what is safest for our children and for our community.”

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