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.

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.

Here’s where they stand at last check:

Duval County Public Schools

Duval County families have until Friday to cancel Duval HomeRoom for the spring semester.

As of Wednesday, Duval County Public Schools Spokeswoman Sonya Duke-Bolden said, 2,200 families have requested to opt out of Duval Homeroom for the third quarter.

Also, as of Wednesday, 80,780 students were enrolled in brick and mortar classes, 27,203 in Duval HomeRoom and 1,481 were learning via Duval Virtual Instruction Academy. Duke-Bolden added that these numbers do not include charter school students.

St. Johns County School District

The St. Johns County School District told News4Jax a survey was sent to families with students participating in distance learning, asking about their intended second-semester learning option.

As of Thursday, school district spokeswoman Christina Langston said, of the district’s 44,815 students enrolled, 38,242 students were attending brick-and-mortar classes, 5,459 were in distance learning and 1,114 were in St. John’s Virtual Academy.

Earlier in the school year, Superintendent Tim Forson announced that leaders would no longer allow students to move from brick-and-mortar learning to distance learning due to the strain he said it was placing on staff.

Clay County District Schools

As of mid-November, the latest figures Clay County District Schools made available, 31,986 Clay County students were attending in-person classes, 6,632 students were enrolled in the school-based virtual learning format OneClay Online, 1,480 students were learning via Clay Virtual Academy and 1,307 students were studying through a blended model.

“Based on the results of our November survey, we are seeing about 3,000 students coming back to brick and mortar from online options,” said school district spokeswoman Nicole Young. “That is a fluid number right now as there were about 12,000 families that did not respond, so schools are reaching out to confirm learning options.”

Nassau County School District

While the Nassau County School District did not provide the exact enrollment figures, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Mark Durham told News4Jax Thursday that the vast majority of students were learning in-person.

Durham said 85% of students were enrolled in full-time brick and mortar classes with the remaining 15% engaged in virtual/distance learning.

“We will be reaching out to parents within the next couple of weeks to determine their intentions for second semester,” Durham said. “We will continue to have all of our current learning options available for students second semester.”

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.