School Board to vote on ‘optional innovative reopening plan’ to be submitted to the state

Press release from Alachua County Public Schools

During a meeting this evening, the School Board of Alachua County will vote on an ‘optional innovative reopening plan’ mandated by the state of Florida for districts that want to offer families an online learning option connected with their child’s school. That requirement was part of an emergency order issued by the state on July 6.

If the Board approves, the district will submit to the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) an application for the new Alachua Digital Academy. Through the Academy, students will receive live lessons provided by teachers from their school of enrollment. The model would allow them to interact with their classmates online, and their daily schedule would mirror the regular school schedule. Students would be provided with devices if they don’t have them, and the district will work with families to obtain Internet access. Digital Academy students would also have access to free meals and other programs and services.

One of the key goals of the Digital Academy is to promote a more seamless transition between brick-and-mortar and online learning if the state orders all schools closed or when more students return to in-person learning later in the school year.

The district’s application must be submitted to the FDOE for approval by July 31. The state is expected to respond within a few days. Alachua County Public Schools has already pushed back the start of school for students to August 24 to allow more time for planning, training, and other preparations.

To be allowed to offer the Digital Academy, the district must also give all students the option to attend school in person, five days a week, beginning in August. This ‘traditional’ model would include significant health and safety protocols, including but not limited to mandatory masks, intensive cleaning/sanitizing, and strategies to promote as much social distancing as possible. The district has also been working closely with the Alachua County Health Department and experts from the University of Florida on COVID-related safety protocols, including the steps the district will take if a student or staff member tests positive. 

Florida districts that do not open schools in person in August face significant funding cuts. It’s estimated that Alachua County Public Schools would lose nearly $30 million for just the first half of the school year, or between 25% to 30% of its operating budget. About 85% of that budget is spent on employee salaries, which means the cuts would certainly affect jobs. 

It’s also questionable whether the district would still receive funding to provide free meals for students in a program like the Digital Academy if it is not officially approved by the state. 

A third instructional option for local families is the Alachua eSchool, which allows students to learn material and complete coursework on their own schedule and pace without live lessons. The eSchool has been in existence for eight years and during the last school year served about 3000 full and part-time students.

  • Nice insert about the budget “loss” to the district. Hope some of those individuals clamoring to stay home will be able to see the impact not only to the economy but families as well.
    The governor just implemented a minimum salary for beginning teachers, which they deserved, but now some, not all, are complaining about having to go back in the classroom. Not everyone wants to live on government handouts and should be afforded the opportunity to work in a clean and safe, learning environment.
    Here’s an idea for those who want to teach. Give those who want to work first choice of schools to provide instruction and let those who choose not to work have the positions that need filling once the schools are fully opened again. Would probably open a lot of positions throughout the county and current board members would stop crying about the educational disparities between east and west.

  • Get rid of teachers unions and make parents pay a usage
    Fee if they have a kid in school…it’s a parents’ job to prepare
    Their children to be independent, self sufficient, and get
    Them “out of the nest”…teachers are using children as
    Human shields to get their Marxist political way. Brick
    And mortar school is best way to educate…it teaches kids
    How to get along with others and make friends…as a taxpayer who has 40% of my property tax bill going to
    Education, I want my money going to a private school if
    The public school won’t do the job. It’s called freedom
    Of choice if the public school system won’t do the job…
    I don’t hear any of this BS coming from parents who
    Are sending their kids to private schools.

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