ORLANDO, Fla. – With a freshly issued executive order making it official, schools across Florida will reopen their doors come fall and resume in-person learning beginning at the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
Florida Department of Education Secretary Richard Corcoran signed the order Monday mandating that schools be open at least five days a week starting in August.
The order does not, however, lay out plans for how education leaders should bring students back to campus. Instead, that will be up to each individual district to decide.
Students transitioned to online learning in March as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the Sunshine State. Classrooms have remained empty since then.
With the upcoming semester a little more than a month away from beginning, local leaders have started to approve and formulate plans for how they will safely resume in-person learning.
Many of those plans include social distancing measures and providing parents with the option to have their child on a virtual only curriculum.
Here’s what we know thus far about Central Florida school reopening plans:
Since the end of May, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Mullins has been planning to reopen campuses on Aug. 11. The district has convened a 14-member task force to develop a plan that will focus on four fundamental areas: health and safety, education, social emotional concerns and operations.
Mullins said the district has already purchased masks, touchless thermometers and cleaning supplies.
On its website, Flagler Schools has posted some general guidelines for reopening. Parents will soon have to choose whether they’d like their child to go back to campus in the fall or continue virtual learning. The district’s current guidelines include maintaining as much space as possible between individuals, facing all desks in the same direction rather than having them face each other, encouraging outdoor activities whenever possible, limiting the sharing of items that are difficult to clean and posting signage to encourage the practice of measures designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Daily self health screenings will be required for students and staff. The full guidelines are posted here.
If substantial COVID-19 spread is reported, it’s possible that campuses in Flagler County could close, according to the district’s response matrix.
Lake County students have three options to choose from for the upcoming semester: traditional school, virtual school or a modified day, which would include receiving math and language arts in person and the rest of their courses online. Students and parents should select an option by July 13.
A draft of the 39-page reopening plan has been posted to Lake County Schools’ website.
Provisions include using outdoor venues, when possible, for activities such as lunch and choir practice where transmission is more likely, isolating any student with COVID-19 symptoms and requiring them to wear a facial covering, Plexiglas shields in the front office area, maintaining six feet of space in classrooms, auditoriums and other areas and limiting group gatherings.
Students will be required to wear face masks while on the bus but it hasn’t been decided yet whether they will be required on campus.
Parents and students have until July 15 to choose whether they’d like to enroll in traditional school or virtual school. Those who opt for the latter will not be allowed to participate in on-campus clubs and activities.
Masks will not be required -- unless social distancing isn’t possible, for example on a school bus -- but they will be available for those who would like one. Group gatherings will be limited and on-campus cleaning procedures will be heightened, according to information online.
The Orange County School Board metTuesday for a work session where reopening were discussed but no decisions were made. In June, the school board solicited suggestions from families and employees on how to reopen safely.
Those suggestions included requiring face masks, temperature checks and eating lunch in classrooms rather than in a cafeteria.
A full list of the requests provided by parents and students is available here.
Osceola County’s reopening plan has already been approved by the school board. Parents and students can choose between three options for the upcoming semester: face-to-face instruction, digital learning at home or Osceola Virtual School. A decision is required by July 13.
Students will need to wear masks when they are not at their desks working independently, they’re being asked to check their temperatures daily and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, pep rallies, assemblies and other events will be held virtually and any student who travels internationally or on a cruise will be asked to self-isolate for two weeks.
The district’s guide for students has been posted online.
Like other districts, Polk County is providing the option to choose between in-person learning or Polk Virtual School. A third option is being developed that would allow students to remain enrolled in school while opting for distance learning.
The reopening task force is set to meet Wednesday to finalize plans for the upcoming semester. Some recommendations that have been discussed include having students and staff wear masks, temperature checks when students arrive on campus and having one point of entry at schools.
Seminole County School Board is set to approve the final safety plan for campuses to reopen on July 14.
In late June, the task force met to discuss a variety of ideas on how to reopen safely and go over results from a parent survey gauging how they feel about certain safety measures. Some ideas on the table include requiring masks, limiting student movement throughout the day and creating a secondary clinic where anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms can be isolated.
Sumter County students will be able to choose between traditional school, virtual school and another option that is still being developed.
Face coverings will be encouraged on campus, signage will be posted reminding everyone of CDC guidelines to stop the spread and group gatherings will be limited.
A cohort isolation model is being developed for the elementary level that would call for students, for the most part, to remain with their classmates with little to no interaction with students from other classes, including during lunch and recess. At the secondary level, there will be a plan in place to discourage large gatherings and the capacity in cafeterias and gymnasiums will be reduced.
The Volusia County School Board plans to finalize reopening protocols during a meeting on July 15.