After DeSantis' Announcement, School Districts Start Planning For August Reopening
With the start of school just two months away, Governor Ron DeSantis is suggesting public schools return to campus for the fall semester.
Jeff Solochek is an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times. He said some districts had hoped to get specific recommendations from the governor and state Department of Education.
Instead, he said they're scrambling to work out logistics, and trying to make sure families will be on board with their plans.
“They need to figure out more about what it's going to look like and they want to hear from parents. Because if parents are not comfortable sending their children, then everything they do is for naught,” he said.
Solocheck was a guest earlier Tuesday on The State We're In - a Facebook Live show from WUSF and WMFE in Orlando. He was also joined by Leslie Postal, an education reporter at the Orlando Sentinel.
Florida's public schools were thrown into uncertainty in mid-March, when the global coronavirus pandemic reached the United States. School districts created a virtual learning environment on the fly.
Postal said while school districts have learned a lot, there remain major challenges that directly affect how children learn.
“I think, you know, the problems - the kids who disengage, the kids with disabilities who didn't really get the services they need, the kids who you know were still learning English - they really struggled with it,” Postal said. “They are all still going to be there. And that's the big issue. The problems aren't going to go away.”
She says school districts also are struggling with even the most basic aspects of returning to school, such as school bus transportation and safely providing lunch.
More than 2.75 million children attend Florida's public schools, and the state employs 180,000 teachers.
Solochek said teachers are eager to get back into their classrooms but safety precautions may get in the way of that.
“They too want to be with their students. They want to be in the schools. But they also want to be safe health wise so some of them are very reluctant to go back. And they are talking about the things that they might be able to do where they can still have interactions with their students but be healthy.”
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This story is produced in partnership with American Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.