By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – The Palm Beach County School Board announced the 2020-2021 school year will begin for students on Monday, August 31st, in county district-operated schools. This came a week after the Board agreed to a proposed “distance learning” plan, and no on-campus classes to start the year.
The School Board voted unanimously on July 22nd to delay the start date by three weeks, allowing more time to prepare for the start of school, which will launch with distance learning.
The new start date gives educators additional time to prepare for teaching in an online platform, for the District to receive and distribute thousands of new laptops to students in need, and to ensure better internet connectivity offered by business partners and municipalities throughout the County.
The Thanksgiving, winter, and spring breaks will remain as previously scheduled. First semester exams will be held after the winter break, with the first semester ending January 29, 2021. The last day of school will be Friday, June 18, 2021. The School District will now submit its Reopening Plan to the Florida Department of Education for its final approval.
Gina Carter, Public Information Officer for the City of Delray Beach explained some preparations happening locally. “The City of Delray Beach is unique in that it has an Education Coordinator, Education Advisory Board and a Chamber of Commerce that work collaboratively to support our student population,” she said.
Adding, “The Education Board and the Delray Beach Chamber Education Committee will be hosting a meeting to discuss what can be done, collectively, for the school community now that we know distance learning will continue. We will be working in tandem with our local principals and out-of-school providers to increase academic opportunities to fill the gaps.”
Although at the time of writing the meeting date and agenda have not been set, Ms. Carter shared some fundraising plans. “The Delray Chamber Education Fund is raising money to support our schools.”
Explaining, “Upcoming events include the Celebration of Education Virtual Breakfast on September 10th which raises funding for Office Depot gift cards.” Also “Delray Reads Day in October will raise money to purchase books to be distributed to elementary school Children.”
It was after a ten-hour meeting on July 15th, the Palm Beach County School Board agreed to a proposed “distance learning” plan, but also decided to delay the start of classes to allow more time to prepare, and ensure all students had computers and Internet access needed to learn online.
At the start of the July 15th meeting, Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy said, “My hope is that despite your concerns you will encourage your children to make the best out of this situation. You are your child’s first and most influential teacher.” Later adding, “I give you my word that virtual learning in the fall will be much more robust and efficient than it was in the spring.”
A big challenge for the district is the new purchase of another 82,000 additional devices and internet access in order to make sure every student can access the course material. Deliveries of devices are to begin on August 17th and continue with 10,000 units per week, drawing $25,063,721 in funding from the IT Capital Budget.
Gina Carter explained the efforts in Delray Beach to prepare students for the year starting with only distance learning education. “Over the summer we have been working on ways to close the digital divide,” she said.
Explaining that they have been, “offering free on-line reading and math programs through Imagine Learning, distributing 250 kindergarten literacy bags for parents to get their child ready to enter kindergarten, and creating content for on-line learning platforms.”