PALATKA, Fla. – The Putnam County superintendent has decided to delay the start of school by two weeks.
On Monday, all Putnam County School Board members said they were in favor of pushing back the first day of school to Aug. 24, although the School Board will officially approve the decision on Aug. 3.
With the delay, the Putnam County School District hopes to give schools more time to plan, clean, train staff and get students in a better position for classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a parent survey that closed last week, 49.2% chose to send their child to a brick-and-mortar school, 36.3% chose digital learning and 14.5% chose Putnam Virtual School.
Those submissions can change, as school leaders are reaching out to parents who did not submit an answer.
Those decisions impact schools like Mellon Elementary, where third-grade classrooms would typically have no more than 18 students per class. But that could change depending on if there are more submissions for the digital learning option.
Mellon Elementary School Principal Libby Weaver is waiting on 100 submissions for her school. She told the School Board on Monday that she plans to delay start times for kindergarten and prekindergarten students in the first week.
“What we’re looking at is starting approximately five students per day until the class is filled. It’s going to allow for, once those kids get in, to teach safety procedures,” Weaver said.
Until the number of students and their options are finalized, schools won’t know where teachers will go.
Of the teachers emailed about returning to school, 89% of classroom teachers and 98% of non-teachers chose brick-and-mortar, 11% of teachers and non-teachers chose digital learning, which requires teachers to work from school classrooms of their officers, and less than 1% of teachers and non-teachers chose either retirement, a leave of absence or resignation.
High school principals told the School Board it’s a different situation for their schools when it comes to class sizes and being able to have a digital learning option.
“Taking the time to go through this process to have a better understanding of where we’re going and what we’re doing gives us an advantage. If we did add these two weeks, it would give us an advantage to plan for that,” said Interlachen High School Principal Bryan Helms.“So when you’re asking will a teacher be able to do option two? I don’t know that yet because I have to see how many kids I have in each room.”
The school district said it plans to put a video up on its website answering questions that parents and teachers may have about the delay.
According to the school district, 10-month staff will return on Aug. 17. News4Jax was told faculty and staff pay will not be impacted by the delay and they will get paychecks on time.
Scheduling for state assessments has been extended in the fall, but there has been no change in the spring.
The district has already updated their academic calendars for a delayed start.