Orange County public schools to reopen face-to-face as planned

School Board members voted to stick with the original Friday, Aug. 21, start date of face-to-face instruction for all students.

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  • | 9:56 p.m. August 17, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Orange County public schools will officially open to all students for face-to-face instruction Friday, Aug. 21.

Following more than five hours of deliberation regarding school-reopening plans, Orange County School Board members voted to keep the reopening plans as is, despite different recommendations from the Medical Advisory Committee.

Members held the special meeting to take public comment and discuss the committee’s recommendations and any potential revisions to the district’s innovative reopening plan. Dozens of parents, teachers and students attended the meeting or called in to express their opinions on both sides of the matter — whether or not it is safe to open schools for face-to-face instruction later this week.

On Aug. 12, the Medical Advisory Committee had recommended keeping the Aug. 21 face-to-face start date for children in elementary or voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. Simultaneously, the committee recommended the School Board consider delaying face-to-face instruction until Aug. 31.

Families who selected face-to-face instruction will send their children to school in person starting Friday, Aug. 21. Those who chose LaunchED@Home will continue with that plan.

District 4 School Board Member Pam Gould made the motion — which carried 6-2 — to uphold the Aug. 21 start date for all students, adding that some closures may be likely going forward but the district should stay its course. 

“I believe that students, parents and many of our staff have made their personal choices, and I trust those choices,” Gould said. “I think they’ve made them well informed.”

School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs told fellow board members through tears that there is no right answer, but she believes the 30% of students who selected the face-to-face option need to be back in the classroom.

“As much as I want to make sure that every single one of our incredible teachers that have poured their heart and soul and their entire lives into our children — I mean, I want to put them on this pedestal and I want to protect — we also have got to always remember that we have to — as a community, as a society — we have to put our children first,” Jacobs said. “I think giving our community some confidence and commitment out of the school district is something that is lacking tremendously. There’s going to be problems, there’s going to be issues — no amount of time is going to prevent that from happening.”

Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins added that no one has the right answer, but the district is committed to the safety of its students and staff.

“One thing I have in common with every other large urban-district superintendent across the country is that we don’t have all the answers, but our commitment is to make our schools as safe as possible,” Jenkins said. “We will work as hard as possible, as diligently as possible to make our schools as safe as possible both for our employees and our students.”


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