By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – On Wednesday, June 10th, the Palm Beach County (PBC) School Board met with the Reopening Task Force for their first ‘Board Workshop’ to review initial reopening plans and timeline. A final decision on the district’s reopening plans is scheduled to be announced July 15th, and classes are due to resume August 10th.
The initial reopening plans defines three scenarios; full-time back in school, a hybrid, and full distance learning. Debra Robinson, School Board Vice Chairwoman, told the Palm Beach Post “I think we’re going to have to do the hybrid,” Robinson said. “The question is where are the children going to be” when not on campus.
Board member Karen Brill said, “If there’s any way possible, we need to open full-time as much as possible because of the mental health of our children, our families,” she said. “The workforce is going back. And I keep hearing from everyone that their children have fallen behind.”
On Thursday, June 11th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made clear the state will pressure all school systems to open completely, even as Florida endures a new uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“I think (Florida’s) distance learning was probably one of the most effective in the country,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Melbourne. “That said, having a teacher there – there’s not going to be a substitute for that in-person instruction.”
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran argued that delaying a full reopening will stunt their educations, disproportionately hurting poor and minority students. “We want schools fully open in the fall because there is no better way to educate our kids than to have that great teacher in front of that child,” Corcoran said yesterday.
On Wednesday, PBC School Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy said. “Even before COVID-19 disrupted our lifestyle, we knew that education as we knew it was changing.”
The pandemic and recent developments involving racial tension have accelerated that evolution. The launch of the new school year is not simply picking up where we left off; it’s about returning and recovering.”
“We were also presented with a potentially devastating financial shortfall,” Fennoy added. “As we brace for the totality of the negative financial impact on our school district caused by COVID-19, we also realize that there are previously unrealized and unexpected expenses.”
The second PBC Board Workshop will be held on July 1st, when they will review the survey results which were sent out to all parents last week. From there the third Board Workshop will be on July 8th to review detailed reopening plans, and then final recommendations will be made at the July 15th Board Meeting.
The ‘Full-Time In School’ scenario includes back to In-Person teaching but prepared to go virtual, if needed. Teachers continue to “FLIP” instruction using Google Classroom & recorded content. Also allowing that some students may stay home anyway due to health concerns.
The ‘Hybrid’ would be certain days In-Person and certain days Virtual, also with some students able to stay home due to health concerns. Google Classroom will be used, and for example a class would have Monday and Tuesday Group 1 In-Person, and Wednesday and Thursday Group 2 In-Person, and Friday would be all virtual.
The ‘Distance Learning’ scenario will mean utilizing Google Classroom and Google Meet daily with the school system focusing on quality instruction.
The Post also reported that until at least September 10th, all school district employees on school grounds will be required to wear face coverings and remain six feet from colleagues and not congregating in groups of more than ten. They will also be prohibited from sharing personal or work supplies with colleagues.
“We support this and believe it is critical to ensure the most effective social-distancing outcomes,” Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA) union President Justin Katz said.