Bradford County Schools scrambles to launch new learning option

Last minute web-cam option introduced after previous version rejected by school board

STARKE, Fla. – As Bradford County students prepare to resume classes on Monday, the school district is scrambling to clarify the different learning options available for the school year.

The school district released its original reopening plans more than three weeks ago, which included traditional brick-and-mortar classroom instruction, two online learning paths and home-schooling.

But those plans have evolved in a hurry since then.

RELATED: Bradford County parents confused about district’s back-to-school options

That’s because administrators realized that nearly one in eight students said they planned on leaving the school district – more than 500 for non-district virtual learning and nearly 350 for home school.

The exodus of so many students put nearly 30 percent of the district’s enrollment in jeopardy.

“It would be a huge hit to the district,” said Sherree Alvarez, director of school improvement and accountability for the district. “At one time, we were looking at about $2 million in lost revenue.”

As a result, the district has rolled out another option allowing students to learn from home. Now, it’s trying to make those options clear to students and parents with three days to go until school starts.

Under the current plan, here are the options available:

  • Brick-and-mortar learning: Students would attend school in a traditional classroom setting;
  • Bradford Virtual Select: This is a district-led online learning option for students to enroll in;
  • MyDistrict Virtual School: Online school through the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium;
  • Bradford Essentials: An online learning option that lets students livestream classes from home;
  • Home school: This one’s self-explanatory.

It’s worth noting the Bradford Essentials option is like a previous proposal called Bradford Innovations, except that a teacher will be in an empty classroom.

Unlike Innovations, students enrolled in Essentials will count toward the district’s full-time enrollment, meaning the district won’t lose that funding.

Overcoming families’ confusion and getting the word out about enrollment options is challenging in such a tight time frame, but that hasn’t stopped administrators from trying.

“We posted on social media, we posted on the district website,” Alvarez said. “I’ve had a team of four people calling all the parents that signed up for Virtual Select. We’ve been concentrating especially on the elementary and middle school to make sure they understand the Essentials option.”

Alvarez said the district is also sending out a robocall to families Friday night in order to help spread the word.

The Bradford Essentials Option is also the alternative for brick-and-mortar students in the event of a full-scale shutdown due to COVID-19.

While grades K-8 have teachers assigned to the new Essentials format, it’s only available on a course-by-course basis for high schoolers.

For those who want to learn more about virtual or home-schooling options, the district is holding a virtual orientation at 5 p.m. on Monday. You’ll be able to access it through GoToMeeting.

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