The week started with a surprise emergency order.
As the business day closed on Monday, the Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order that said all schools in the state must reopen five days a week when school resumes in August, unless health officials say otherwise.
The order was a curveball for local school districts that had been working for weeks to fine-tune plans to reopen schools in the middle of a sudden surge in cases of the novel coronavirus. Many districts were forced to go back to the drawing board to adapt to the new order.
Despite some questioning the validity of the order, school districts moved quickly to change plans. St. Johns, Nassau and Clay were among the counties that released revised plans soon after the order was handed down. Duval County is still working out its plan and is expected to release something in the coming days.
Other districts are expected to finalize plans this week. School districts now have until July 31 to submit their reopening plans.
The clock is already ticking for parents to make a final decision about if they want their students to return to school or continue at-home learning.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, echoing President Donald Trump’s statements earlier in the week, continued to say on Saturday that sending students back to campuses is the right thing to do even as COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise at record rates.
“We spent months saying that there were certain things that were essential. That included fast-food restaurants. It includes Walmart. It included Home Depot,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Jacksonville. “If all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential.”
While the majority of parents said they plan to send students back to school, some Florida teachers and parents aren’t happy with the current safety measures.
Below are some of the top education stories that News4Jax and other local media outlets covered last week.
You can expect plenty more education coverage from the News4Jax Education Team as the countdown until the first day of school continues.
A day after President Donald Trump lashed out at federal health officials over reopening guidelines that he complained are impractical and expensive, and Vice President Mike Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be issuing new guidance next week, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Thursday that the guidelines won’t change.
Redfield said that instead of revising the guidelines, the schools will be given “additional reference documents” to help them figure out how to best use the guidelines for their districts.
The new leader of the teachers union in Clay County says that 40% of teachers who responded to a recent survey said they are immune-compromised and have reservations about returning to school.
As part of what it’s calling a “smart restart,” the Clay County School District on Thursday revealed four options it will be offering students for learning during the fall semester.
As teachers and parents continue to express concerns, Duval Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene hinted that the district has reworked its plan to reopen schools after the state mandate. A school board member said it could be released by next week.
The St. Johns County School District put its reopening plans on hold after the executive order was released, but on Friday it rolled out its new plan. Among the big changes, masks will now be required in classrooms and in hallways. A school board meeting is set for Tuesday to talk about what comes next.
The percentage of Duval County’s high school and middle school students who reported being sexually active has declined by double digits over the last 10 years. Young people also report less tobacco, alcohol and drug use in a survey released Thursday by the Duval County Health Department.
But not all the trends are good. Students report their eating habits are not as healthy and more young people report feeling less safe at school and more have considered suicide.
A special fund has been created to help raise the money needed to rename six Duval County schools that are currently named after prominent Confederate leaders. Some are not happy about the plan.
In Volusia County, the school district was forced to shut down a Pre-K program after a student tested positive for COVID-19, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. The teachers union president said it was a “wake-up call” and added that she is concerned about how the district will handle breakouts when school resumes.
The Florida Times-Union reported that a coronavirus waiver circulating on social media in Clay County isn’t actually for students. Also from the TU, the Duval School Board approved a recommendation to reassign 30 Duval County Public Schools principals to new schools ahead of the 2020-21 school year.
Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the university said it is approaching the fall carefully, with 35% of the classes scheduled to be held in face-to-face or hybrid modes and an additional 35% of the classes scheduled to be delivered in a synchronous, online format.
Masks will still be required on campus.
Many districts are rolling out plans under Georgia’s Path to Recovering for K-thru-12 schools, which are not mandated or state required.
What are your burning questions as students prepare to return to school in August? Follow this link to submit a question and the News4Jax Education Team will work to get the answer.
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.
Facing the Fall is our newsletter covering Jacksonville’s return to school. Interested? You’re already signed up. Our team of reporters will send updates to keep you informed. Not interested? Unsubscribe here.