- August 21, 2020
Less than 24 hours after the Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order July 6 requiring the opening of brick-and-mortar schools in August, the Orange County School Board met to discuss reopening plans.
The School Board did not make any decisions or take public input during the July 7 workshop; rather, it served as a point of discussion for reopening plans. Board members discussed three options: traditional face-to-face instruction, virtual learning and OCPS’ own innovative option.
“The reopening guidelines were shifted yesterday under the commissioner’s emergency order,” Jenkins said. “Still in place are some of the expectations from previous direction that we received, including that we create local safe-schools plans to maintain in-person learning, create a framework for local planning by creating a crisis-response team, and establish support and partnerships in communities to make local decisions.”
Other guidelines the district must follow is the implementation of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and FLDOE where possible; requiring input from various stakeholders; providing personal protective equipment for employees and enhancing sanitization requirements. Any plan must be also be fluid and allow for modifications where necessary.
Under the DOE emergency order, the two pre-approved reopening models of instruction are face-to-face and virtual — in Orange County, that could be the county’s virtual school or Florida Virtual School.
But school districts and charter schools that want to consider innovative alternatives must submit their own reopening plan for approval. OCPS could be among such districts.
“We believe we have a plan that should easily meet the requirements of the state,” Jenkins said.
OCPS’ plan is called [email protected] It is fully accredited and would provide location flexibility for students with standard school hours, live lessons daily and the continuity of the student experience and campus connections. Additionally, it offers wraparound support services at the student’s campus and access to unique programs.
[email protected] would be an option for families who would like to keep their connection to their enrolled school but don’t yet feel comfortable sending their student back to campus. It would require a minimum one-semester commitment, following a traditional schedule using synchronous web conferencing and transitioning back to school when possible.
It differs from virtual learning in that virtual learning is self-paced and only some web-conference meetings are necessary.
Should the district submit the [email protected] plan to the state, the DOE will consider factors such as the projected percentage of students who would use it, quality of proposed progress-monitoring data and efforts to close achievement gaps.
Aside from the [email protected] option, face-to-face learning could come with new requirements. The School Board discussed ideas from employees, parents and students submitted via the district’s Think Tank. More than 6,000 ideas and comments were gathered in relation to things like social distancing, cleaning, physical barriers, health screening and school-year schedule.
“This is an issue we have never dealt with before, and so we are having to feel our way through some of the issues,” Jenkins said. “We all agree that these are different times and challenging times, but we believe we can get through it and come to some conclusions to provide for both our employees and our parents. … Our utmost commitment is to the safety and well-being of our employees, of our children and of our community, and we are still committed to providing high-quality education for our children, as well.”