BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Volusia County School District voted to push back the start date of the 2020-21 school year to Aug. 31 during a special meeting on Tuesday.
Reasons for the delay included giving time for the spread of coronavirus to slow down as well as giving teachers time to train on new safety measures.
“It’s in the best interest of everybody. It gives parents a chance to decide on some options, teachers a chance to get some valuable training and for them to get prepared, as well as for students in terms of their health with social distancing, commented Volusia County School Board Chairman Ida Duncan-Wright.
Hoping for improvement
“Hopefully we’ll see a downward trend in the next couple of weeks and by the time school starts, everyone could be comfortable,” she said.
The Aug. 31 return date is the latest in Central Florida and the latest mandated by the Florida Board of Education.
Originally, school was set to start on Aug. 17, but that date was pushed back because primary elections will be held on Aug.18; some schools will be used as voting precincts. Teachers still report back to work on Aug. 11.
The district also discussed a draft policy addressing several safety protocols.
Safety measures being proposed include twosided plexiglas at students desks; three-sided plexiglas at teachers’ desks; assigned student seating; masks and face shields for teachers and faculty; facemasks for students, hand sanitizers in classes and halls; students wearing face coverings in hallways and while changing classes; facemasks worn on buses; assigned seating on buses; daily temperature checks; and more.
Wright added, “One of the discussions we’re having is how are they going to be spaced out during lunch…so that we can have social distancing.
“We’ll continue to have conversations (about that). We will also clean and sterilize as much as possible each day to stop the spread of the virus.”
If a student is exposed to COVID-19, the district said it will isolate that student, notify administration and then contact a parent or guardian for pick-up. A letter would also go out to parents of primary contacts and teachers once it’s confirmed the student does have the virus.
Anyone affected will quarantine and participate in virtual learning until they test negative for the virus.
The district has yet to finalize their back to school plan. The plan can be found on the school districts website, www.vcsedu.org
Also last week, the district announced three options for parents in regard to how kids return to school for the upcoming year.
The options include back to school in the traditional sense with new COVID-19 safety measures; live online streaming; and virtual school (online).
Traditional classroom is five days a week in the classroom.
The Volusia Live real time online stream features kids learning at home, but they log in to a device and will be in a virtual real-time classroom setting with teachers instructing online. Attendance will be taken. Classes are on a regular schedule. That option still has to be approved by the Florida Department of Education.
The virtual option is what kids have been doing during at-home learning, which is at their own pace.
Parents have until July 28 to pre-register their child for the option that they chose. It could be done on the district’s website or in person at schools.
Despite safety fears from students, parents, faculty, staff and others, Wright expects a good number of kids to be in the classroom.
Wright explained, “I think many will choose brick-and-mortar. Both parents and children want to go back to school, but they want to see a downward trend in cases with the virus. Teachers will still be in class giving instruction even if the kids are at home learning.”