ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County school officials are revealing what school could look like if in-person teaching resumes.
Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said during a school board work meeting that the district is awaiting direction from the Governor on how to move forward. She said the district is planning for several situations in order to be best prepared for whatever the governor decides.
The district presented renderings that show how classroom capacity would be limited in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. School officials said elementary school classrooms would be reduced from 18 to 11 students, middle school classrooms would be reduced from 22 to 12 students and high school classrooms would be reduced from 25 to 11 students.
Jenkins said that the district is not in the position to transport students on buses if six-foot social distancing guidelines remained in effect. She said only about 12 students will be able to ride on each bus. She added in-person classes would likely not be able to take place until the six-foot social distancing guidelines were removed.
"The biggest concern is going to be students moving up and down the isles, into their seats and then not come within 6 feet of each other. I honestly hope we are not in that predicament, that we are not trying to transport students," said Jenkins.
OCPS said the district is currently under a hiring freeze for all non-instructional and non-essential positions while it anticipates a shortfall with tax revenue, citing a decline in tourism.
While the district is spending more money on costs associated with sanitation and technology purchases, it says its saving money by having lower utility bills at schools, and they aren't having to purchase fuel for school buses.
OCPS said it estimates it will receive $55 million dollars of the $770 million dollars Florida received for education from the federal CARES Act.
With “grab & go” meal sites across the district for students to pick up a meal at no cost, the district said it’s food services department estimates to have lost $10.6 million dollars. School officials add reserve funds that will cover that loss.
In a survey conducted by OCPS, Jenkins said that out of 56,600 parents, 38% wanted to see in person school return for the next school year. Of the 16,000 employees surveyed, the district said 33% want classes to resume in person.
Several board members raised concerns over mental health for both students and staff. The district said it is working to extend its outreach of social and emotional learning.
To help better explain learning packets to parents, OCPS said teachers will record themselves explaining coursework and it will air in partnership with the University of Central Florida on WUCF-TV.
As of now, about a hundred summer school courses are scheduled online for students, according to the district.