What’s next for online learning? Florida schools still waiting on state guidance

Orange County school leaders say they don’t know if LaunchEd will continue next year

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – It’s been a year since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools across Florida forcing school districts to act fast and transition to virtual learning options. School leaders are now wondering what is next for online learning platforms.

Spring break marks one year since Orange County students shifted from learning in the classroom to learning virtually.

“We didn’t know that we weren’t going to come back after spring break definitely this time last year,” Orange County Public Schools spokesperson Scott Howat said.

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Instead, students finished the school year through distanced learning. Many students chose to continue learning virtually this school year through LaunchEd@Home, the district’s online learning platform.

According to district officials, while LaunchEd enrollment has dropped from a high of 68% at the beginning of the year, currently 40% of students, or two out of five students, are still utilizing the online platform.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students that have returned face-to-face,” Howat said.

As more students return to the classroom, district officials said they don’t know if LaunchEd will continue next year. Howat said they are still waiting on guidance from the state.

“We know that was created under the commissioner, the Florida Department of Education’s executive order which allowed us to create the innovate plan and then to continue it in December once we received the updated and revised plan. So now the question is will that be extended beyond the summer?” Howat said.

Howat said as of now the only online learning option for the next school year is through Orange County Virtual School, which offers free online learning at the student’s own pace. Registration opened on Friday and is expected to close in June.

Howat said the district is waiting to see what’s next for virtual education.

“We’re encouraged by where we’re going and where we’re headed. We would just certainly encourage any opportunity to have LaunchEd at home, to continue for those who absolutely need and are successful with it, but we do know that those who aren’t do need to come back to a face-to-face model to give them a better chance at academic success,” he said.

News 6 reached out to the Florida Department of Education asking if the executive order will be extended, but the department had not responded as of this report.

About the Author:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!