SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Florida Commissioner of Education has directed school districts statewide to close for two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Manatee County, schools will be closed to students until Monday, March 30, extending spring break for an additional week. All extracurricular activities for students, including all athletic contests, will be postponed for the next two weeks.
“The Coronavirus pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on our society and across the world, so it is not surprising that it is now directly impacting our schools,” said Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. “We are charged with the safety and security of our students and employees so we will abide by all protocols and procedures endorsed by the CDC, the Florida Department of Health, our Governor and the Commissioner of Education. I know our students, employees and community will rise up to meet the challenges before us.”
School district employees will work March 23-27. Teachers and other instructors will work on professional development and training while support personnel will get the schools ready to return to business on March 30.
In Sarasota County, schools will extend spring break for an additional week through March 23-27, though the district may call staff into work the week of March 23. The district also says starting March 16, all extra-curricular activities, including scheduled practices as well as all in-state and out-of-state field trips and athletics, are canceled until further notice.
Sarasota County also sent a reminder that the Department of Education has advised that anyone who has traveled out of the country or on a cruise to any location, regardless of their health, must self-isolate for 14 days. This means staff and students are not allowed to come back to school or work for a total of 14 days. Staff will need to use their available leave to cover their time off during self-isolation.
This move follows action by the State University System of Florida on Wednesday, when officials announced they were moving all classes at state universities online, saying, “it has become clear that to protect the students and the residents of our state, proactive rather than reactive guidance to universities is necessary.”
Effective immediately, all universities have been directed to transition to remote classes as soon as possible. They also stated the following:
- UNIVERSITIES WITH STUDENTS CURRENTLY ON CAMPUS State universities with students who have returned from spring break, which includes Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, and the University of Florida, should implement a process to transition to remote instruction immediately and encourage students to return home for at least 2 weeks. Each university will provide detailed information to their students, faculty, and staff at the earliest possible time regarding this transition.
- UNIVERSITIES WITH STUDENTS ON OR GOING ON SPRING BREAK State universities with students who are currently on spring break or about to be on break should direct their students to NOT return to campus for at least 2 weeks following the conclusion of spring break. This includes students at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, and the University of West Florida. Each university will provide detailed information to their students, faculty, and staff at the earliest possible time regarding this transition.
The State University System of Florida says all universities will continue to provide essential services, such as dining, counseling, health and library services, on a limited basis or remotely. Universities with clinical and non-classroom based programs will be communicating directly with students.
As for residential housing, each university is being told to develop a plan to provide accommodations for students who need assistance or must remain in place.
The State University System of Florida says it will continue to monitor guidelines from the CDC and provide expanded guidance if need be.