JACKSONVILLE. – If the Duval County school district’s final reopening plan is approved, the first day of school would be moved back to Aug. 20 -- 10 days after the originally planned start date.
According to the plan the benefits of pushing back the start date are that it would provide the Operations Department additional time to prepare workspaces with PPE and added protective measures and it will give teachers another planning day before school starts.
The school board is expected to vote on this plan Thursday. It will then have to be sent to the state department of education by next week ahead of the July 31 deadline. As of now, this plan calls for elementary school students to start back in the classroom five days a week. For older students, it’s more staggered.
While elementary school students would attend their assigned brick-and-mortar school every day, middle school students would go three to four days a week and high school students would attend two days a week.
Secondary students could return to the classroom five days a week by Sept. 17 if the local COVID-19 status allows for a safe full-time reopening.
DCPS said for the 2019-2020 school year, there were 53,141 students enrolled in elementary, 21,704 middle school students and 30,246 high school students.
Duval HomeRoom Distance Learning is still an option for families who aren’t ready to send their kids back to the physical classroom. Those students will still be enrolled in their assigned school and will have the option of returning to that school throughout the year. The deadline for parents to enroll students in Duval HomeRoom is this Friday. They must have a FOCUS account to register.
Duval Virtual Instruction Academy is available also and is what families will follow if they decide to stick with virtual learning throughout the school year. The deadline to enroll for this is July 31. And, again, parents need a FOCUS account to register.
For instructions on creating a FOCUS account, click here.
Under this plan, teachers would return for pre-planning starting Aug. 12. It’s unclear how pushing back the start of school will affect teacher pay, but that will also be decided at Thursday’s special meeting.
The current teacher pay schedule has them receiving their first check Aug. 14.
An Ed White High School teacher, who declined to be identified but said she has been with DCPS since 2007, said her biggest concern is having a delay in teacher pay after the summer.
“I like to know when I’m going to get paid, and it is a concern of not knowing if you’re not going to get paid on time or not,” the teacher said.
Last Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene spoke about teacher pay during a school board meeting.
“If we delayed to Aug. 24, we believe we’ve worked out a way to continue to pay our teachers -- not just teachers but paraprofessionals, all of the employee groups that would be starting when school starts. That would not be disrupted,” Greene said.
Greene said any start date after Aug. 24 would create a challenge for paying teachers.
Duval County Public Schools records show the COVID-19 pandemic has cost DCPS more than $10 million. The documents show some of those expenses include school supplies, mobile hotspots, face masks and face shields.
A DCPS spokesperson told News4Jax that the expenditures are coming from the district’s general fund. It has submitted an application for CARES stimulus funds.
Chris Janson is waiting to make the official decision but said he will most likely be opting for online learning for his 11th grader at Stanton College Preparatory School. He said his son is in vocal performance.
“I think ultimately we’re planning on Duval Homeroom because we don’t want him to lose his spot in this magnet school that he worked so hard to be in; however, we’re getting a recommendation from teachers in that school to hold off on making the decision,” Janson said.
He said delaying the start of school feels like “kicking the can down the road.”
“I think it creates more unease and anxiety,” said Janson, who lost a good friend last week to COVID-19 complications.
Janson said his friend was a principal of a school in rural North Carolina.
He said he believes there will be more deaths in the community when schools re-open.