School reopening plans due in 3 weeks

Florida schools ordered to reopen in August

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A day after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered Florida’s public schools to reopen in August, state education officials on Tuesday held a webinar to address questions about the mandate.

K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva told school district officials that they need to submit reopening plans and agree to all of the points in Corcoran’s emergency order by July 31. For example, school districts need to assure the Florida Department of Education that they agree to reopen next month and that they will offer the full panoply of services required by law.

Under Monday’s emergency order, all public schools will be required to reopen in August for at least five days a week and to provide the full array of services required by law, including in-person instruction and services for students with special needs. Students who are continuing to learn from home must be given “additional support and the opportunity to transition to another teaching method if they fail to make adequate progress,” the order says.

School districts’ reopening plans need to include the percentage of students in the district who are projected to continue with distance learning, which schools began using following a statewide shutdown in March. The order also requires districts to disclose efforts to address achievement gaps and monitor students’ progress. Oliva said the reopening plans do not need to be approved by local school officials prior to being submitted to the state education department.

The chancellor also said that Corcoran’s emergency order is designed to “empower parents” who want to give their children the best educational opportunities. The order does not require parents to send their children to school but gives them the option to do so if they choose, Oliva said.

The webinar came on the same day that President Donald Trump said he will be pressuring governors to reopen schools in the fall, even as COVID-19 cases spike in Florida and other parts of the country.

“We are going to be very strong on that. We are going to be very powerful on that view,” Trump, a close ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, said at a White House event on Tuesday. “We want schools to open in the fall.”