School Board votes to send OCPSLaunchED@Home to state officials with waiver

The waiver would allow the Orange County Public Schools board members to decide on physical reopening based on local COVID-19 conditions.

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  • | 1:30 p.m. July 17, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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The Orange County School Board has voted to send its proposed innovative-learning plan, OCPSLaunchED@Home, to the state for approval.

Board members reconvened in a special meeting Friday, July 17, to pick up discussion on school-reopening plans and vote on the next course of action. Discussion was tabled following a nearly 10-hour School Board meeting Tuesday, July 14, in part to allow the School Board to ruminate on community input.

Members voted 6-2, with Karen Castor-Dentel and Dr. Kat Gordon dissenting, to approve Linda Kobert's motion to send the plan to the state along with a waiver. No reopening decision has been made. 

The waiver, should the state approve it, would allow the School Board to make a decision on safe school reopening and face-to-face instruction dependent on local COVID-19 conditions and guidance from medical experts. The Board would then be able to retract reopening brick-and-mortar schools if deemed unsafe locally. It's unclear whether the state would approve this.

The next step is to survey parents and teachers on their preferences and registrations of intent. The survey would include a disclaimer, School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs said, that the face-to-face option only has a tentative reopening date as the School Board is seeking authority over the actual start date. Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said she hopes to be able to send out the surveys by the end of the day Friday, July 17.

"I think that the upcoming survey will be our way of also judging our parents' concerns and needs, as well as our teachers, and I know I have heard from a lot of parents just since Tuesday about the concern for their children," Jacobs said. "I think it's extremely important that we have input from everyone."

"What's the intent to come back?" Kobert added. "Is that 20%, is that 30%? Let's see what it is. And again, this plan is fluid. It's not ideal, but it's temporary, and we need to know where our parents and teachers are at. I feel strongly that this is the path we need to take to bring our community back to normalcy in a safe way. I reiterate: This is not ideal. We’re in a pandemic, we’re doing the best we can and taking all interests in mind. ... I believe that is what the people elected us to do, and we are exercising our right ... to make the decisions for those in our community, to keep them safe."





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