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Facing The Fall: What will school districts do next? Delays, campus closures still on the table

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

When the Duval County school district rolled out a revised reopening plan last week, it compared the fluid situation to the St. Johns River.

It’s not a bad analogy — especially considering the ever-changing reopening plans may change, AGAIN — but at times the back-to-school plans have felt more like a wild ride on a Class 5 rapid filled with jagged rocks, not a lazy river. Everyone involved is just trying to hang on and make it safely to shore.

School leaders in the coming days are expected to finally decide how best to move forward. Currently on the table for multiple school districts in Northeast Florida are options to delay the start of school, start the year online, or stick with the plans that are already in place.

In weighing the decision they will have to consider conflicting viewpoints. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a visit to St. Augustine on Saturday continued to reassure decision-makers that reopening schools is the right thing to do. Meanwhile, doctors have urged school leaders to delay the start of school or start the school year with online learning because of the potential health risks that could await teachers and students as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

Whatever the districts decide this week, it’s hard to imagine it will be smooth sailing from here.

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Coming up later this week, News4Jax is hosting a virtual forum with leaders from the Duval County school district. The Facing The Fall Virtual Town Hall will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday and will be hosted by anchor Jennifer Waugh and education reporter Joe McLean.

Our education team will field questions from the public and bring them to those in charge of making decisions. You can begin to leave your questions at the link at the bottom of this newsletter.

Stay tuned for more.

Now, let’s check out the latest education developments:

File Photo
File Photo (News4Jax)

Duval County School Board considers delaying start of school

Duval Superintendent Diana Greene said delaying the start of school would require her to withdraw the current reopening plan and could present some payroll challenges for the district. Meanwhile, concerned teachers are still trying to negotiate for safe work conditions.

File Photo
File Photo (News4Jax)

St. Johns County superintendent: Good chance school start will be pushed back at least 2 weeks

On Tuesday, the St. Johns County school board is expected to set the date to vote on whether or not to push back the school start date. The deadline to chose an educational path arrived Friday and more than 10,000 St. Johns County students opted for school-based virtual learning. The other 70% of students who plan to go back to school in August will have plenty of safety precautions in place, including $157,000 worth of thermometers to check the temperatures of every student. One teacher said the thought of going back to school prompted her to create a will.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

American Academy of Pediatrics: Schools need over $200B from feds to reopen safely

Reopening schools ain’t going to be cheap, according to American Academy of Pediatrics. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week he’ll begin to roll out details of the new COVID-19 relief package to senators as soon as next week and suggested it will include new funding for school reopenings, some unemployment benefits and money for health care providers.

File Photo
File Photo

University of North Florida planning for classes to begin Aug. 17

UNF is encouraging students, staff, visitors and vendors to be tested within 14 days prior to returning to campus, shutting down restaurants and is planning to move classes fully online after Thanksgiving break, plans released Friday show.

File Photo
File Photo

Edward Waters College paying balances of eligible returning students in fall, spring

The college has committed to paying financial balances of eligible returning students during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. That includes helping with tuition and fees, room and board, as well as activity fees.

File Photo
File Photo (pixbay.com)

What happens if Duval County student tests positive for COVID-19?

It’s a question on the minds of a lot of parents. Here’s what the Florida Department of Health had to say.

File Photo
File Photo

How does COVID-19 affect kids? Science has answers and gaps

The Trump administration says the science “is very clear,” but many doctors who specialize in pediatrics and infectious diseases say much of the evidence is inconclusive.

More education stories from local media last week:

Florida schools are working to reopen, but what happens if there’s a real Code Red?

The Florida Department of Education is still trying to figure out how to handle active shooter drills in the age of coronavirus, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, UNF staffers’ anti-Semitic salute photos resurface

The St. Augustine Record reports that alumni of a deaf college fraternity, including a Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind staff member and a UNF associate instructor, are coming under fire after resurfaced photos from the 1980s showed members doing what looks like an anti-Semitic salute.

Teacher pay in Volusia unlikely to hit $47,500 Florida target. Here’s why.

The idea that all Volusia County teachers will be making a minimum salary of $47,500 this year is a misconception, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

What are your back-to-school questions?

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 (jmclean@wjxt.com) 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 (tgibson@wjxt.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.


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