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Broward schools could remain closed for rest of school year

File photo
File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Broward County Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie said Wednesday he expects students to learn from home for the rest of the school year, as the number of coronavirus cases in the county and the state continues to soar.

Runcie oversees Florida’s second-largest school district, with roughly 270,000 students and 30,000 employees.

“My belief is that we are going to go until the end of the school year in using this virtual format, and it may even go longer,” he told state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, during a Facebook live event on Wednesday.

Broward public school students are currently on an extended spring break and are expected to start remote learning efforts on March 30.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said last week that all Florida public school students would be learning remotely until April 15, in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. But Runcie said he would be “surprised” if students came back by then.

As of Wednesday, Broward had the second-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The move to remote instruction poses a variety of problems for students and administrators in Broward, Runcie said. Many students lack internet access at home, he said, adding that the school district has worked with Comcast to provide free internet service to families for 60 days.

In addition, Runcie said 60 percent of public-school students in Broward rely on the school district for meals. The district is bolstering efforts to provide students with curbside or drive-through meal services, he added.

“I am hopeful that by the start of the next school year a lot of these challenges will be addressed and we’ll get back some sense of normalcy,” the superintendent said.

As the district adjusts to online instruction, Runcie said he is open to talking with parents about the need to have students repeat a school year, if that is the right choice for them.

“Our intention is not to hold kids back when possible, but it is not going to be a unilateral decision on one side or the other,” he said. “It is going to be a joint conversation between the district and the parent to see what is in the best interest of the student.”