Polk County schools to delay school year start, offer 3 learning options

District leaders say decision based on rise in COVID-19 cases

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Polk County Public Schools announced Tuesday it will delay the start of the 2020-21 school year at least until Aug. 24 due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said after seeking guidance from local public health officials, it was determined that is is not yet safe to physically reopen schools at this time. The school year was scheduled to begin on Aug. 10.

“We are trending upward with the rise of COVID-19 cases, not only in the state but right here in Polk County,” Byrd said in a news release. “At this time, I do not feel it is safe to physically reopen schools on Aug. 10. We need to delay the opening of school at least until Aug. 24. We will continue to monitor the situation with health officials and, if the spread of the virus remains high, we can further delay the physical reopening of our brick-and-mortar schools if necessary.”

Polk County educators will begin undertaking some professional development on Aug. 17, according to the district.

The School Board is expected to vote during Tuesday night’s meeting to adjust the school year calendar.

For the upcoming school year, PCPS is planning to offer three learning formats and asking families to choose the one that best meets their needs.

Parents must register their children for one of these three learning options by July 27.

Here is an overview of our three learning options for the 2020-21 school year:

- Campus Learning — Students will return to campus under various health and safety protocols. Transportation and meals will be provided.

- Campus eSchool — Students remain enrolled in their zoned, choice, or magnet school of acceptance, but will participate in online learning. Students will be expected to log in at a certain time, and there will be specified times for the various subjects, such as math, science and language arts. Parents serve as learning coaches and monitor students on completing their assignments. For planning purposes, the district is asking parents to make a quarterly commitment to eSchool.

- Polk Virtual School — Students enroll in PCPS’ longstanding virtual school program with online lessons taught by PCPS teachers. Students work at their own pace and can set their own schedule. Time management and self-motivation are essential. Parents serve as learning coaches and monitor students on completing their assignments. For planning purposes, we are asking that families who select Polk Virtual School to make a semester-long commitment.

For more information on the available learning options and to complete online registration, visit polkschoolsfl.com/reopening

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