Florida’s constantly changing COVID-19 situation is putting it on a course to become one of the worst of all 50 U.S. states, with the number of new cases breaking records every day. This unfortunate track record, coupled up with the beginning of the school year, has most of the country– and the world– with their eyes on Florida’s government and district school boards, awaiting their decision on the return to the classroom during the pandemic.
Broward County, in particular, is one of the counties with the most cases in Florida, second only to Miami-Dade County. It is with this context that the superintendents of both districts reached a decision in a virtual workshop on July 22 to start the 2020-2021 school year with 100% online instruction.
Superintendent Robert Runcie believes that it is not safe for students or staff to physically return to the classrooms. He entails that remote learning eliminates the exposure resulting from the crowded environment of schools. Broward has the second largest student population in Florida, and with the widespread reach of the virus, opening schools would most likely lead to them having to close back again quickly, similar to what has happened in cases of re-opening schools in Georgia and Indiana.
As for the dynamic of online instruction, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) proposed four and a half to five hours of live interaction daily between teachers and students. This is a stark contrast to the spring semester, with the upcoming months comprising of more consistent face-to-face lessons relying heavily on Microsoft Teams.
CCHS will follow an A/B block schedule (four classes a day), with the school day starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 3:10 p.m.
CCHS will follow an A/B block schedule (four classes a day), with the school day starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 3:10 p.m. Instructional support from teachers will also be available to high school students in the evening.
Runcie stated that training has been offered for teachers throughout July and August to facilitate the transition to this new teaching endeavor. He also adds that BCPS has spent the summer tackling the outage and glitch issues surrounding new online instruction software.
Broward students and staff should not get too comfortable with the remote learning protocols because Runcie has stated that it is not permanent, and schools may open up before the first quarter ends. Depending on the situation of the virus every two weeks, BCPS will start to branch out and offer their students more choices on their preferred method of learning.
“We’ve got a major checkpoint that we’ve targeted that is Oct. 1,” Superintendent Runcie said in an interview with Local 10 News.“That would give us about three weeks or so that we can pivot to move to our hybrid model, which would provide opportunities to students who want to stay home and continue e-learning, also for the hybrid where they could come part-time to school and even actually be able to have students coming full-time who would desire to do so in most cases.”
The complexity that surrounds the return to classrooms is one that concerns not only staff, students and parents, but the community as a whole. One thing is certain, and that is that the “normal” that we once knew is no more, and we will need to adapt under these trying circumstances.
Photo by The Lariat Photography
Infographic by Arielle Kraus