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Board member: Duval schools not likely to move start date despite parents’ RNC concerns

Hershey: 'A decision made today may change tomorrow'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A board member with Duval County Public Schools said Friday that while leaders are aware of some concern among a group of parents and teachers in the district, it’s unlikely the start of the 2020-2021 academic year will be postponed.

“There are a lot of people concerned about the RNC (Republican National Convention) coming and what impact that might have on our community,” District 7 board member Lori Hershey said. “I think that if it wasn’t in the midst of COVID-19, the perception from the community would be different, but I think we’ve just got a lot of factors rolling into August.”

The concerns were raised by members of the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team (DSPST), a newly-formed group of more than 1,300 parents, teachers and district stakeholders.

“The RNC is scheduled for two weeks after school starts, and I have not heard a good reason why school cannot start after the RNC, and that then those students and their families don’t have to be out with that and then potentially bring any exposure to school from those 40,000 strangers who are in our midst,” said Rebeccah Beller, one of the DSPST’s founding members.

Hershey said moving the start of the school year would present logistical problems.

“That’s certainly a conversation that we can have again, but if we push it off a few weeks, does something else come up?” Hershey said. “Then, do we continue to delay and delay, and then how far do we push the school year then into the summer coming up?”

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Hershey said families are provided the option to keep their students home if they are uncomfortable sending them to in-person classes during the RNC. She also said the reopening situation is fluid and ever-changing.

“There are so many options in place for parents if they prefer not to start the school year in the classroom, they have that option,” Hershey said. “So, think that’s part of the reason for currently sticking with that with the date.”