ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – For some students and teachers, the first day of the 2021-2022 school year will also mark their first day back in a classroom since the coronavirus pandemic began.
A new school year always brings changes. Add a pandemic into the mix and parents and students are bound to have some questions about what to expect.
To help clear up any confusion ahead of the first day of school, News 6 reached out to each Central Florida school district with some frequently asked questions to help assemble a back-to-school guide for students and parents.
Here’s everything you need to know about heading back to school in Orange County:
When does school start?
The first day of school in Orange County is Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Does my child need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to go to school?
COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for students to return to the classroom. In fact, many students are not eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 12 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccination to help protect against the virus. Right now, children 12 years and older are able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
To get the vaccine in Florida, children 12-17 years of age must be accompanied by a guardian and complete the COVID-19 vaccine consent form. To download a copy of the form, click here. Vaccination locations can be found here.
Wondering if the vaccine is safe for kids? Here’s what a Central Florida pediatrician has to say about COVID-19 vaccinations for minors.
Will masks and/or social distancing be required in the classroom?
All students will be required to wear masks in schools for 30 days starting on the first day of school, Aug. 10, however, parents can send a note for their students to opt-out of wearing a mask. Students must present the note to their teacher on the first day of school.
Amid the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the school district announced all employees would be required to wear masks starting Friday, one week after an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis was signed that bans mask mandates for students. In the order, the governor directed state departments to give parents the final say on whether children should wear masks in schools.
According to the district, the new mandate will last 30 days and require employees to wear masks inside facilities or vehicles and while they are in the presence of another person.
As of the latest guidance, the CDC is recommending all students and teachers wear masks in the classroom, regardless of vaccination status.
Will any other coronavirus precautions/restrictions be in place?
The school district is still making its final plans for the 2021-2022 school year, according to a district spokesperson.
To read the current Health and Safety Procedures Manual, click here. The district added that this document may be updated throughout the year.
Are there any virtual/hybrid learning options available this semester?
According to district officials, Orange County is only offering two learning options for the upcoming school year: Traditional in-person face-to-face and Orange County Virtual School. Orange County Virtual School is accepting student enrollments through Aug. 6 For more information, click here.
What school supplies do I need to buy for my student?
The district does not supply a universal school supply list. Each individual school offers a supply list on its website.
To find links to your child’s school’s website, click here.
My child will ride the bus. Where should they catch it?
Your student’s bus stop will, of course, depend on where they live. Closer to the official start of the school year, the county will post information on where your child can catch their bus at this link.
Is the school district hiring?
The district said it is in need of cafeteria staff, bus drivers and mechanics.
Those interested in applying check out the open positions on the district website at www.jobs.ocps.net.
Food and Nutrition Services is also accepting in-person applications at their facility located at 8101 Benrus St., Orlando on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to a spokesperson.
Other helpful information
As we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, plans can change depending on a number of factors. You can always find the latest back-to-school information at ClickOrlando.com/backtoschool.
News 6 hosted a back-to-school town hall to answer viewer questions ahead of the upcoming school year. You can rewatch it in the video player below.
To find the Orange County Public Schools academic year calendar, click here.
If your question wasn’t answered in this story, click here to visit Orange County Public Schools’ website.