OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Some Florida school districts are still waiting to announce what learning options students will return to next fall with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in full swing but at least two Central Florida school districts will be moving back to pre-pandemic education options.
More than a year ago, students in Florida were sent home for spring break and did not return to campuses but instead pivoted to all-virtual learning. In the fall, most Florida school districts offered hybrid-learning options where a student would be on their same schedule but learn from home. School districts also offered in-person classes or virtual learning through the Florida Virtual School.
Osceola County School District Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace announced in a message to families Wednesday the school district would offer two options: face-to-face or Osceola Virtual School.
Students who opt for virtual-only will not follow their school’s schedule and will need to enroll by July 16 at osceolaschools.net/ovss.
“Please note that for next school year we will no longer offer the option of digital learning in conjunction with your child’s school,” Pace said referring to the hybrid-learning offered amid the pandemic.
“While we are anxiously looking forward, we are also committed to finishing out the last quarter of the school year strong,” Pace continued. “I will continue to monitor any new developments to ensure our current plans, and those for next school year, protect the health and safety of our students and staff. I encourage you and your family members to take advantage of the free COVID vaccines so that we can add another layer of protection in our community.”
Lake County Schools communication director Sherri Owens confirmed Wednesday the district will also not continue with its hybrid option, known as Lake Live, beginning next semester.
“In Lake, we will continue with Lake County Virtual School, which was in place long before the pandemic. It is a separate school with its own teachers, and it offers full-time virtual instruction,” Owens said in an email. ”We are not planning to continue with Lake Live, the virtual option we launched last year. Lake Live offers structured virtual learning that mirrors the traditional daily school schedule.”
Under Lake Live offered for the 2020-2021 school year, students were enrolled in their usual school and were taught by teachers from their enrolled school when possible.
Orange County Public Schools told News 6 its LaunchEd@Home model would only be offered in the fall if there is an extension of an emergency order set to expire this summer. The school district said it is waiting for more information regarding the order.
While 16 and 17-year-old students are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and teachers and staff are all eligible for any vaccine, the timeline for when younger students will be able to get vaccinated is less clear.
The FDA has already approved both Moderna and Pfizer to begin studies in children 11 and younger to eventually test its shots on infants as young as 6 months old.
Johnson & Johnson is also looking to test its one-dose shot on people younger than 18 as well. Its CEO said it will likely have a vaccine available for children by September.
Large numbers of students across the U.S. have not yet returned to the classroom even as more schools reopen for full-time, in-person learning, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Biden administration.
Nearly 46% of public schools offered five days a week of in-person learning to all students in February, according to the survey, but just 34% of students were learning full time in the classroom. The gap was most pronounced among older K-12 students, with just 29% of eighth graders getting five days a week of learning at school.
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