Central Florida school districts react to remote learning extension

Funding for remote learning remains unclear

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Central Florida school districts are responding after the Florida Department of Education announced Wednesday the state is allowing districts to continue distance and remote learning for the spring semester.

News 6 contacted local school districts to get their reactions. Seminole County Public Schools spokesperson Michael Lawrence said this will allow students, parents and teachers to continue having more learning options.

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“We want to keep all of those options on the table and available to those families because we know everyone is in a different scenario,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence added they want to continue offering more choices for parents at least through the remainder of the school year.

“And allow us to reevaluate that at the end of this school year and hopefully things on the COVID-19 front are a little bit better and looking good, in which case we can have a normal school year next year,” he said.

The state announced it will allow remote and distance learning to continue in the spring, but the second executive order is still being finalized. It’s unclear if funding will be changed in the new order.

As coronavirus cases climb in Florida, state education officials announce online learning can continue for the spring semester.

Currently school districts receive the same amount of funding per student if they’re learning face to face or remotely.

“As the emergency order expires, then the state could theoretically say, ‘We’re not funding those students anymore,’ so even if we’re still allowing families to have that option, that would be on the local school district’s dime,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said school districts need those funds to continue offering remote learning options.

“If the funding component wasn’t tied to that, that would be an issue for all public school districts to see if they could continue that or not,” he said. “I think in many cases they would be unable to serve those, which would basically force parents to send their kids face to face or not and I don’t think that’s a scenario that anybody would like to go through.”

The medical advisory committee for Orange County Public Schools sent the state a letter earlier this month asking the DOE to allow districts to continue offering remote learning.

OCPS said in a statement, “We are encouraged by Commissioner Corcoran’s comments at this morning’s State Board of Education meeting regarding the continuation of current learning opportunities for our students. OCPS is hopeful that funding will remain at the current level to support this choice for our families during these challenging times.”