BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Brevard County School Board on Tuesday voted to move the student start date for the coming school year to Aug. 24 but will meet again next week to discuss making school openings contingent on whether the pandemic continues to improve in Brevard, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
While the board approved the later start date, they expressed concern they didn’t yet have a settled metric to judge if it was safe enough to open schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They will meet again at the scheduled July 30 board meeting to discuss whether and which benchmark they should adopt — and whether the county was meeting it.
School board chair Misty Belford said the district’s reopening plan continues to evolve “almost every day.”
The move leaves open the possibility brick-and-mortar schools in Brevard could remain closed in August if rates of the virus don't continue to improve.
Superintendent Mark Mullins had previously recommended moving the student start date to Aug. 17 to give teachers and staff more time to prepare.
Board members also agreed to once again revisit the possibility of mandating face masks for students and staff, which they will take up at the July 30 meeting.
Under the current plan — which board members approved July 14 — masks are "expected" for students and staff in any situation where social distancing is not feasible, but are not officially required. The current approved policy was a change from that initially proposed by the school district, which "strongly recommended" masks but required them in only limited circumstances.
School board member Katye Campbell suggested the district's mask policy will be problematic no matter what's ultimately decided.
“We’re creating an environment where we’re either going to have create a bajillion exceptions, or we’re creating an environment where we’re going have a bunch of rule breakers,” Campbell said.
For the Aug. 24 start date, teachers will report to work Aug. 10 and the last day of school will move to June 3, 2021.
The timing of first paychecks for over 2,200 employees, including bus drivers, instructional assistants and many cafeteria workers, would not be affected by the new start date, Assistant Superintendent Beth Thedy said.
Teachers also will gain four extra days of pre-planning under the new calendar. Four non-student days from the previous calendar (Oct. 12, Feb. 15, Mar. 22 and May 28) would be moved to the front of the year to accommodate the change.
Early release days and contracted holidays will remain the same but students will lose two days from winter break.
Thedy also noted some challenges with the Aug. 24 start: fall exams would be held after winter break and the new calendar puts district out of sync with Eastern Florida State College, which could create problems for the district’s dual-enrolled students.
The teachers union said it's happier with plans now compared to where they stood the past few weeks.
“We pushed the district to look at many different options, to look at all the implications, so that we could make the decision that would give teachers more time, administrators more time, and students and parents more time to make the decision that’s right for them,” Brevard Federation of Teachers Vice President Vanessa Skipper said.
To read more about Brevard County’s back-to-school plan, click here.