VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – As Florida continues to see a surge in coronavirus cases, Volusia County school leaders are working to welcome students back for the 2020-2021 academic year with adjusted learning options.
School leaders around the state have been working on details to reopen campuses for in-person learning after the Florida Department of Education issued an executive order telling schools to physically reopen in August for at least five days a week.
The Volusia County School Board held a virtual meeting Wednesday to work on a plan to reopen school campuses with safety precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Volusia County Schools is offering three options for parents and students.
Parents can enroll their students in the traditional classroom setting, Volusia Live or Enhanced Volusia online learning.
The traditional option will allow students to return to school. Safety precautions would include temperature checks, face coverings and social distancing when possible. The board said they would further the discussion on face coverings at a future meeting.
Volusia Live would allow students to take online classes at home and receive face-to-face lessons in real time.
The enhanced online option allows students to receive lessons in a flexible format. Kids can learn at their own pace.
Some Central Florida school districts, including Polk and Seminole counties, have pushed their start dates to allow for more preparation time for students as well as to monitor the current COVID-19 situation. All Florida school campuses moved to virtual-only learning in March when the first cases of the illness behind the global pandemic began appearing in Florida.
The tentative plan for now is for Volusia students to go back to school on August 24.
The updates below are from the school board meeting on Wednesday.
The school board plans to vote on the district’s reopening plan at 4:30 p.m. on July 21.
The break is over and the school board is proposing a tentative Aug. 24 start date.
This would allow nine days of training prior to that date for teachers and staff.
The board is taking a break and will move into discussion when they come back.
VCPS teacher and parent
The teacher is concerned about grandparents who pick up students.
“I would hate to have that on my conscious if grandparents are exposed.”
Special needs teacher
A Special needs teacher is worried about his students. He is concerned about their safety.
“My students require hands on attention. I often have to restrain children, they bite they spit. They hit each other.”
A parent inquired about absenteeism if students have to be out for an extended period of time.
Husband of a teacher
A husband of a teacher praised the informative board meeting. He said his concern is containing the spread in school buildings.
“In a contained bus situation I think that having a bus driver having to be in control of elementary kids to keep their masks on is not reasonable to assume they will keep them on all the time”
A caller said she is upset board members have not been transparent.
“We are vehemently against teachers splitting their attention for instructional personnel.”
“I love and miss my students I know this is not the time to return to the classroom. We have persevered together,” the teacher said.
The teacher said distance learning is not perfect.
“Death of one of our students and children will be our downfall,” the teacher said. “It would be like playing Russian roulette with our students and has a deadly side.”
The teacher said the school board are leaders entrusted with the safety of the children.
English teacher from Deltona high school
He described COVID-19 as the worst viral pandemic in American history.
“You guys are unique and honored you are the only individuals chosen to lead.”
He said the option to save lives in the board’s hands.
The school board unanimously approved the use of $380,000 in federal CARES Act funding for the Early Learning Coalition Rising Kindergarten Program, designed to get rising Kindergartners up to speed before they enter the school system.
The board also approved funding to purchase new technology devices for teachers that will help them better handle virtual instruction to students.
The board will present the plan, take one hour of public comment and then they’ll have to reconvene to vote on the final plan to reopen schools.
It’s possible the board may have to hold an emergency meeting to vote on the plan next week.