SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -Despite the recent surge of COVID-19 infections throughout the state of Florida, a mandate has been issued from Tallahassee requiring all public schools and charter schools to reopen in August.
Florida Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, issued the emergency order Monday night. The order requires school districts and charter school governing boards to open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students in the fall. The only way a school will not open back up for in-person learning is if state or local health officials advise a school board not to do so.
“As we know, we are in a very fluid situation and when circumstances or occurrences change, we have to change with them,” explained Cynthia Saunders, the Superintendent for Manatee County Schools.
The mandate states the reason for the reopening is to help the well-being of students and families, which rely on schools for things such as nutrition, socialization, counseling, and extra-curricular activities. It also states this will help parents and guardians get back to work.
“I can understand, as a parent, that concern, certainly I’m hearing from our educators and members of staff that concern, but sometimes that unknown is what creates a lot more anxiety,” Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota County School Board Member, said.
The order states schools can offer remote learning as an option for students but it will be more robust this year. Students who do remote learning will have their progress monitored and if they fail to make progress they will be provided a transition into another teaching method. The Department of Education will also not be waiving the minimum number of instructional hours for students and schools must provide all services they normally do this year.
“Plus, how we will comply with the CDC guidelines to ensure safety for all, but also comply with the executive order,” Saunders said.
School districts though want to assure parents that they will be implementing every measure possible to keep students safe. Also, as always, they will be working in conjunction with the county health departments.
“There’s lots of questions still, but a little less ambiguity. I have no doubt there’s a lot of anxiety in the community, but everyone places a role. Don’t send your kid to school if their sick, or if you’re a staff member don’t come in. These are all common topics, but they’re so important, and it’s the only way we will get through it,” Ziegler expressed.
July 14th will be a big day for both counties. Manatee County will iron out their re-opening plans, and Sarasota County School District will do the same, while also voting on a mask ordinance for students.