ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Parents are on the fence about sending their children back to the classroom due to the sharp uptick in COVID cases.
Judi Hayes is the mother of two Orange County students. She said she is still undecided and unsure of what to do just weeks before the new school year starts.
“I don’t really have a deadline, honestly,” Hayes said.
Hayes said she is still trying to figure out if her children will learn in person or virtually.
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She said both of her children used OCPS LaunchEd last year, but the district’s hybrid learning model isn’t an option this school year.
Hayes said her oldest son, Jack, will return to school. She said the 8th grader is fully vaccinated and will wear a mask.
But she is still deciding what to do with her youngest son, Will.
“We feel like it just isn’t’ safe for him to go back. because he has Down syndrome we have to shelter him a little bit more than most kids,” Hayes said.
She is not alone. Many Central Florida parents are facing the same decision.
As COVID cases rise and there isn’t an approved vaccine for younger children, many parents are struggling with the choice of sending their students to learn in person or signing up for virtual school.
“I think any parent of any child who is under 12 and cannot be vaccinated, most of us, I would like to think, have the same concerns about keeping our kids safe especially where we know that other kids in school won’t be wearing masks,” Hayes said.
Florida Virtual School extended its enrollment deadline for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. Parents now have until August 13 to sign up.
An FLVS spokesperson said they are receiving more applications compared to pre-pandemic enrollment levels.
The deadline to enroll in Orange County Virtual School is July 30.
District officials said 2,150 students have registered so far, which is less than half of last year’s number.
The district is projecting 209,000 students will enroll for the 2021-2022 school year.