JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Welcome back to Facing the Fall, our newsletter covering Jacksonville’s return to school. Interested? You’re signed up. Our team of reporters will send updates to keep you informed. Not interested? Unsubscribe here.
Leaders of school districts across Northeast Florida thought their comprehensive plans to reopen schools were all but settled. But with about a month to go until classes are scheduled to resume, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran threw a wrench in reopening plans when he issued an emergency order Monday evening mandating that schools offer in-person classes on campuses this fall. The order, which came as a shock to many in the education world, has left districts and parents scrambling to figure out what comes next.
Gov. DeSantis and Corcoran, a former Florida House speaker, have been determined to reopen public schools at full capacity next month, even as state health officials have reported a minimum of 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in each of the last two weeks. Their wish became a mandate on Monday.
St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson was ready Tuesday morning to present a detailed reopening plan to the School Board.
But with the mandate to reopen school campuses in August handed down Monday evening, the presentation, and any reopening plans, were put on hold.
Unsatisfied with reopening plans, more St. Johns County parents are deciding to move their children to full-time virtual school this fall. We spoke to one St. Johns County parent who made the choice to keep her three kids from going back to campuses.
The number of high school seniors applying for U.S. federal college aid plunged in the weeks following the sudden closure of school buildings this spring — a time when students were cut off from school counselors, and families hit with financial setbacks were reconsidering plans for higher education.
“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 University System of Georgia told schools they should “strongly encourage” students and others to wear masks, but said that the system’s 26 universities couldn’t mandate face coverings for their 330,000 students despite concerns about COVID-19 transmission. That changed on Tuesday.
Meet the team
The News4Jax Education Team is led by Reporter Joe McLean (firstname.lastname@example.org) who has nearly 10 years of experience as an investigative journalist covering everything from education to politics in Missouri.
Joining him is Digital Reporter Travis Gibson (email@example.com), a Jacksonville native and former high school sports reporter who has written about race issues and allegations of abuse on university and high school campuses across the country.
The goal is to have our reporters bring your questions and concerns to education leaders and hold them accountable. You’ll see their work online and on TV starting this week and throughout the school year.