JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The head of Duval County Public Schools said $70 million dollars in funding is at stake if its back-to-school plan doesn’t get approved by the state.
The school board approved the district’s hybrid learning plan Thursday to allow students to have the option to return to school a few days out of the week. It also gives the option for students to enroll in virtual distance learning.
Duval County is one of three Florida school districts to go against the state’s emergency order asking schools to reopen face-to-face five days a week, according to superintendent Dr. Diana Greene.
It’s unclear to the chairman of the school board what could happen if the state rejects the plan. At worst, the district could lose millions in money tied to enrollment.
In a tense and emotional meeting Thursday, Duval’s school board agreed to send the state a plan to return students back to the physical classroom gradually.
The plan does not meet the education commissioner’s emergency order to give all students the option to return to class five days a week. The chairman of the school board said Duval schools aren’t ready to reopen based on the current COVID-19 conditions.
“We don’t feel like we are at that point yet,” said board chairman Warren Jones. “We don’t feel like we should do that right now because it’s hard to social distance.”
Dr. Greene said Thursday if the district’s alternative plan is not approved its enrollment calculation could be impacted, and the district’s funding is largely based on enrollment.
“We have close to 15,000 students already registered for Duval HomeRoom. Using (Full-Time Equivalent), that would be about $70 million for this district if we were not paid for those students doing a distance learning model,” Greene said Thursday.
The funding question speaks to the teeth of the emergency order.
Section III of the emergency executive order handed down by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran states that school districts and charter school governing boards with an approved reopening plan “will receive reporting flexibility designed to provide financial continuity for the 2020 semester.”
The executive order is set to expire in December.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the school district,” Jones said. “We are in unprecedented times. No one has reopened a school in a pandemic. No one in the country has done that. We are all grappling with this issue, schools in this country, how to safely and effectively reopen school during the pandemic.”
The district said Friday it has had “productive, collaborative conversations with DOE leadership” in the construction of its plan.
The state was not available to speak about funding Friday.
News4Jax also asked the Florida Department of Education via email if it has rejected any plans submitted from other school districts in the state, but so far we have not received an answer.