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Coronavirus: Florida K-12 Schools Plan For Online Learning In Case They Need To Close

An open laptop and a cup of coffee
K-12 public schools are making plans for online learning in case they need to close due to coronavirus

Local public schools are preparing for online learning in case they have to close due to coronavirus.

So far, just one school in the Tampa Bay area -- Farnell Middle School in Hillsborough County -- will close for 48 hours after a person there had extended contact with someone with coronavirus, officials said Thursday.

Incoming Hillsborough County School Superintendent Addison Davis said the district will make lessons available online to students of Farnell Middle so they don't miss out on learning.

With spring break starting late this week in some counties and on the weekend in others, local school districts are taking steps to roll out online lessons for children, just in case. Students are scheduled to return to class from the break on March 23.

“These are constant questions that are out there, that are being asked, because it is the area of expertise for the Department of Health and the CDC and infectious disease experts. They really are the ones that are evaluating that exposure, and make that call,” Sarasota School Board Member Bridget Ziegler said Wednesday. 

"But we want to be prepared and not reactionary. We want to be proactive," said Ziegler.

"So there are certainly discussions on training the necessary educators who would be potentially hosting any kind of online learning. Our goal is to have the least amount of disruption with the maximum amount of safety and security.”

To determine which families may need assistance with devices at home, Sarasota County is asking parents to complete an online survey at Sarasotacountyschools.net/deviceneedssurvey.

Manatee County plans to use a cloud-based learning management system called Schoology for virtual classes, if schools must close. School district spokesman Mike Barber also said they have extra laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots for students in need.

Hillsborough County is asking parents and students to make sure they know their usernames and passwords for Edsby and Clever, so that teaching could move from the classroom to the cloud.

“If the Florida Department of Health directs us to change operations or close a building, we have plans to continue educating students,” said spokeswoman Tanya Arja.

Pinellas County Schools spokeswoman Isabel Mascarenas said they will follow “the same digital learning plan in case of hurricane-related closures.”

For a district school closure of less than five days, “teachers will post lessons on the student portal FOCUS for students to complete and post,” she said.

“If the district closes schools for more than 5 days, teachers will use a software called Microsoft Teams for secondary schools. Teachers will be expected to use Microsoft Teams to conduct live courses during their regularly scheduled class times with their students. Elementary school students will receive grade level assignments to complete and post.”

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.
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