‘There was just simply no funding,’ Orange County school board chair wants return of LaunchEd

State no longer providing funding for distance learning option

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In a one-on-one interview with News 6, Orange County Public Schools’ school board chair Teresa Jacobs said she wanted to see the LaunchEd learning option return this year.

“I would’ve preferred that we start the school year with the same platform we had last year, and that, at the end of last year the state took that away and said we’re not going to continue to fund LaunchEd at home,” Jacobs said.

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While LaunchEd is something she wanted to see, Jacobs said at this point, with school starting Aug. 10, it’s just not feasible.

“We are starting school in about four days and the logistics of gearing up for the LaunchEd at home, getting our teachers back, assigned the way they need to be assigned, would be very challenging at this stage,” Jacobs said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been advocating for parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their children when it comes to masking in schools.

“Parents can choose how they want to put their kid going to school, we believe parents have that right. I think the White House tried to say I prohibited parents from making that decision. It’s just the opposite, we’re empowering them,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.

But Jacobs said, when it comes to parent choice, they should have been able to choose what platform.

“If the governor believes that parents should ultimately be able to decide what’s best for their children, this would’ve been the year to also allow them, just like last year, to decide whether LaunchEd at home was a better platform for their children, then the choice of bringing them in,” Jacobs. said.

Jacobs said, while there isn’t an executive order preventing the district from doing LaunchEd, she said there is a funding issue preventing them.

“We were alerted at the end of last year that that platform was no longer going to be supported, i.e. there will be no funding. Theoretically, we could do it, but we don’t have money to pay the teachers to teach those kids; we can’t do it, so there was no executive order, there was just simply no funding,” she said.

Jacobs added, the school board reached out to the Governor on a variety of issues but has not received responses. However, she said LaunchEd is not an issue they’ve asked him about.

News 6 reached out to the governor’s office about whether the state was considering providing the funding for districts to be able to once again implement distance learning options and whether the governor’s office had received the school board’s questions.

Read the response below:

“Florida students have a high-quality, state-funded distance learning option that has been and will continue to be freely available. It is called Florida Virtual School (FLVS). FLVS was founded in 1997, and FLVS students have successfully completed more than 5.1 million semester enrollments in the nearly 25 years FLVS has existed. FLVS is one of the world’s leading online learning providers that delivers engaging and innovative experiences so students can enjoy a safe, reliable, and flexible education in a supportive environment. You can learn more at https://www.flvs.net/.

Traditional district schools are expected to be 100% open for in-person education, which is vital for most kids to learn, thrive, and develop socially and emotionally. Expecting teachers to teach both in-person and online classes indefinitely is not sustainable, and almost all of Florida’s public school students were back in the classroom last year.

We recognize that there are some students who are unable to attend in-person school due to medical conditions or different situations in their lives. This has always been the case, long before COVID-19 – which is why public-school students in Florida have had the FLVS option for almost 25 years already. Every kid deserves a high-quality education tailored to their unique needs, and education has always been a top priority for the governor.

As for the OCPS school board member’s attempts to contact the governor’s office, I will check with our administration to verify whether those requests were received and if so, when.”

About the Author:

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.