Schools still closed, but it’s back to ‘class’ in Duval County

Virtual learning begins this week for 130,000 students in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County students have wrapped up their first day of virtual schools, and not without some technical issues and frayed nerves.

Florida schools were ordered closed statewide until at least April 15, so until then -- just like a lot of their parents -- Duval County’s 130,000 students began working from home using a website called Duval HomeRoom.

Administrators and teachers hustled for the past week to be ready to offer online classes by Monday when Duval County’s extended spring break ended. The website went live Sunday night and, like any major technology rollout, there were growing pains -- trouble logging in, trouble loading documents and long wait times for technical support

The school district hopes these problems will be worked work out in time.

“It’s a little strange, but it was easier than I was expecting to communicate with teachers, to keep up with everything else,” Peter Baruch said. “It’s going smoother than I thought it would be.”

Peter’s mother, Lani, a WJXT sales executive who, along with her husband, is also working from home, says there are growing pains for the whole family.

“You have my husband and I both working here.," Lani Baruch said. "Those are little stresses because, when he goes to school, he gets to see his friends, They have a little break in between.”

For parents concerned their child may fall behind in an online learning setting, paraprofessionals, ESE support, ESOL support, and additional support staff will be available during school hours (8 a.m.-2:50 p.m.). Teachers will be adding the appropriate support staff to their teams to ensure students maintain continued support as required.

In the meantime, here are some answers to questions parents may have:

Q: What are the expectations for student and teacher hours?

A: The student school day is 8 a.m. - 2:50 p.m. Students may work on assignments at other times. However, teachers are only available during these designated times.

Q: What happens if my child does not have technology at home? What if I have multiple children but only one computer?

A: Duval County is in the process of distributing devices to all students whose parents or guardians indicated a need for a device on the Technology Availability survey issued during the extended Spring Break. Device distribution has begun and will continue this week. Check with Comcast to determine eligibility for free Wi-Fi.

Q: What if my student’s teacher becomes unavailable or doesn’t respond?

A: During a teacher absence, additional support staff or administration will support the classroom to ensure students receive support. If there is a breakdown in communication between teachers and students, families may reach out to their schools for support.

By now, all students and parents should have received an email from the district with instructions, but here’s what we’re told:

Students log on using OneView, which many families will have already used to get assignments, check grades and more. If you haven’t used the system before or forgot the password, there’s information on dcps.duvalschools.org/duvalhomeroom.

Once connected, teachers will guide students through the instructional experience.

If there are technical issues keep trying Technology Support Team at 904-348-5200, but be prepared to wait in line. If you cannot get through reach out to the school directly and be transparent with teachers about any problems you may have.

“Monday will be a new day for all of us and so patience and flexibility will be the virtues that we will all be bringing with us to school on Monday,” said Tracy Pierce, DCPS’ chief of marketing and public relations.

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Pre-K through fifth-grade students without access to technology will get bi-weekly learning packets which can be picked up at the closest elementary school between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., at selected bus stops (where lunches are also available) or the materials can be printed from the DCPS website.

You do not have to go to the school you attend to pick up materials. To find a bus stop location, check the bus schedule.

It’s already been an adventure for teachers, too. Thousands underwent training Friday and spent the weekend learning the system and preparing lesson plans.

Superintendent Diana Greene acknowledged it is a new way of learning but stressed that there is nothing to be afraid of.

“We encourage parents to connect with the teacher," Greene said. "The teacher has the capability of talking to the students if they have the audio capability on their laptop, which if they’re receiving it from the district, they will have that capability.”

And, she says, teachers, guidance counselors and deans will be reaching out, even calling students.

“Our goal is to talk to every single student ... to find out if they’re doing OK. If there’s something they need,” Greene said.

That goes for elementary age students all the way up to graduating seniors.

“We want to ensure that our seniors have every opportunity to graduate on time, which, with the cancellation of state assessments all they need to have for this year for graduation is a 2.0 GPA and 24 credits,” Greene said.

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