Families weigh learning options as school districts finalize plans for spring 2021

New emergency order from FDOE mandates format ‘intervention’ for any struggling students

With less than a month left in the first half of the 2020-21 school year, school districts in Northeast Florida are adapting their spring plans to submit to the Florida Department of Education, as families decide in what format their students will be learning.

In an FDOE emergency order issued on Nov. 30, Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s administration placed a greater emphasis on learning intervention for students who are academically struggling in their chosen learning format.

“School districts and charter schools must provide supplemental services (such as after-school tutoring, Saturday Academies, Summer Intervention Camps), for any student who, based upon progress monitoring or other data, has not achieved grade-level mastery or who is not on track to achieve a minimum of one year of academic growth during the 2020-21 school year,” the emergency order said. “Such students must be identified by districts and charter schools as soon as possible and provided written notice of the need and availability of these services. School districts and charter schools must use progress monitoring data to track these students, regardless of whether or not they participate in supplemental services.”

For Bonnie Upright, whose daughter studies in the Clay County school district, the decision to keep her in virtual learning was difficult.

“Our family has personally been impacted by COVID,” Upright said. “My kids lost their grandfather to COVID earlier in the spring. So, obviously, that hits home literally, and it does color many of our decisions that we make in our daily lives right now.”

Another Clay County mother said that even though she’s immunocompromised, she decided to enroll her son with special needs in brick-and-mortar classes.

“I was worried about him going back,” Jocelyn Alden said. “However, the program that he does the best in when it was online, he wouldn’t have done as well. So we decided it was better, and his teachers decided it was better for him to go back.”

The FDOE emergency order maintains the funding continuity for virtual learning programs like Duval HomeRoom, OneClay Online, etc., and many school districts are polling families to glean the number of students that will be in each format starting in January.

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