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School closures extended, state testing canceled

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 4:50 PM CDT
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In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Governor Ron DeSantis made major announcements concerning schools and the coronavirus COVID-19.

Governor DeSantis also said all remaining school testing has been canceled for school readiness, voluntary Pre-K, and K-12.

From the Department of Education:

The Department of Education and Commissioner Richard Corcoran are using executive authority to support the Florida Division of Emergency Management to ensure Florida citizens are kept safe.

“The containment of COVID-19 is essential, and this is not a decision we made lightly. Districts have taken action and have instituted distance learning as a necessary precaution to protect students, educators, families, and Florida’s overall public health,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “We are working with our local school districts to provide guidance and help children who need access food during this time. Our number one priority is keeping our families safe and healthy and stopping the spread of this virus. These actions will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Florida. I will continue to work with the Governor, Superintendents, Florida College System and the State University System to do whatever we can to protect our children, our families, and our communities.”

Commissioner Corcoran is taking the following actions, effective immediately:

School Districts

• All public and private K-12 and career and technical center campuses are closed through April 15, 2020.

o Schools are encouraged to operate virtually or through other non-classroom-based means to the greatest extent possible to implement distance learning.

o School districts should be prepared to extend their educational calendars through June 30, 2020, to the extent feasible and necessary.

o For Collier, Duval, Sumter and Union county school districts, which are all completing their extended spring break on March 20, 2020, school campuses will remain closed through April 15, 2020, although they will begin instruction virtually on March 23.

o To support students with identified IEP-related services who may have a disruption in services, school districts are given flexibility for the remainder of the school year to provide alternative services or delay services until later in the summer months, in coordination with a student’s parents and IEP team.

Assessments, Accountability and Promotion

• All remaining assessments for school readiness, voluntary prekindergarten and K-12 assessments are cancelled for the 2019-2020 school year.

• Requirements for graduation and promotion, and final course grades will be evaluated as though those assessments which were cancelled did not exist.

• K-12 school grades will not be calculated for 2019-2020 and schools in turnaround may continue their current status for 2020-2021 to avoid disruption to school leadership and operations.

• Eligibility for Florida Bright Futures scholarships shall be based on available data and results. Tests that were not available to be taken shall not be counted.

Instructional Hours

• The Commissioner may reduce required instructional hours as necessary to accommodate for closures.

Funding

• The Florida Department of Education and K-12 school districts are instructed to redirect unspent 2019-2020 funds from Reading Scholarship Accounts, the Reading Instruction Allocation, the Digital Classroom Allocation and the Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program to help low-income students purchase digital devices and establish Internet services.

• In order to facilitate the remote connection between teachers and students, K-12 school districts are further permitted to redirect unspent Title 2 funds to help low-income students purchase digital devices and establish Internet services.

• K-12 school districts are permitted to redirect unspent 2019-2020 funds from the Safe Schools and Mental Health allocations to virtual and telephonic mental health counseling services for students who need emotional support due to COVID-19.

• All school readiness, voluntary prekindergarten, K-12, career and technical centers and state college programs will receive their full allocation of funding, and therefore staff and contractors can be paid fully, through June 30, 2020, as though there was no disruption in education.

Teachers

• For the next 120 days, exam fees for teacher certification-related examinations will be waived, and test takers who were unable to take an exam due to test site locations closing will be granted an extension to meet these requirements.

District School Board and State College Board of Trustees Meetings

• All district school board and state college board of trustees meetings through June 30, 2020, are postponed and may only be scheduled for emergency purposes only by the respective school district superintendent or college president.

o These meetings must be convened virtually or telephonically.

o If there is a vacancy or inability to serve on the part of the superintendent or college president, then the respective board chair may convene an emergency meeting.

o School districts and state colleges must ensure that meetings held by virtual means are accessible by interested members of the public.

Mass Gatherings and Community Events

• Commissioner Corcoran urges adherence to the CDC’s guidance for higher-risk populations by cancelling any mass gatherings, community events and extracurricular activities, including sports of more than 10 people in a single occupied space at any educational program, school readiness, voluntary prekindergarten, public and private K-12, career and technical centers, and public and private colleges and universities.

School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten Programs

• Commissioner Corcoran strongly recommend school readiness and voluntary prekindergarten programs adhere to the CDC’s guidance for higher-risk populations by limiting students and employees to no more than 10 people convening in a single occupied space, therefore breaking students into groups as necessary, maintaining social distancing best practices and proper hygiene.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services Offices

• All services provided by the divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services to clients shall be provided solely though virtual and telephonic methods to the extent possible.

o The Department will work with appropriate federal authorities to seek waivers for any federal requirements that may be impacted.

Postsecondary Institutions

• All public state college and university, and private college and university campuses and buildings are closed for the remainder of the spring semester.

o Colleges and universities are encouraged to operate virtually or through other non-classroom-based means to the greatest extent possible.

o Colleges and universities should be prepared to extend their educational calendars through June 30, 2020, to the extent feasible and necessary.

Bay District Schools released this statement:

"As many of you already know, Gov. DeSantis just extended the K-12 school closures in Florida until at least April 15th. At his press conference this afternoon, he also announced the cancellation of FSA/EOC testing for this school year.

"While we know that this news presents challenges for many of you, we also know that we're all committed to doing whatever we can to "flatten the curve" and keep our most vulnerable citizens as safe as possible. Prior to Spring Break, our teachers and administrators were hard at work developing paper-based and digital lesson plans just in case an extended closure was directed by the Governor and DOE. Early next week we will begin finalizing those plans and developing a timeline for deployment of lessons throughout our community.

"News like this is definitely disconcerting because school represents a firm foundation and structure in our society. We are confident, however, that working together we will continue to teach and learn and grow during this closure. We know that our students will miss their friends and their teachers and our staff will definitely miss collaborating in person and working face-to-face with our students but we will rise to meet this new challenge just as we met those posed by the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

"We cannot imagine how frustrating this is for our seniors ... many plans and events will now have to be put on hold or rescheduled for the future. Class of 2020, please know that we will do all we can for you during this challenging time.

"We remain #850Strong and we will be sending much more information to you as soon as our plans are finalized. Please follow us on social media and on our website at http://www.bay.k12.fl.us/COVID%2019."

Gulf County Superintendent Jim Norton sent us this statement,

"All schools will be closed until April 15th. During this period the school districts and the Department of Education will be looking at 2-week snapshots of time to determine if additional closures should be necessary.

"The district is working on an Instructional Continuity Plan for home-based learning until schools reopen. This plan will be implemented on Monday, March 30th. Details will follow later this week, along with details for the student feeding program.

"All state standardized testing has been cancelled by the Department of Education.

"Gulf District Schools employees should maintain a high degree of readiness to assist with the home-based Instructional Continuity Plan… our greatest task is maintaining our educational programs and supporting families through this unprecedented time.

"Everyone is strongly urged to adhere to the CDC guidelines for gatherings. At present the limit is no more than 10 people in a single occupied space.

"I know that everyone has as many questions as I have. We will continue to share information as it becomes available to us.

"God Bless, Jim"

Okaloosa County School District sent us this statement:

Following a statewide conference with the Department of Education and other state officials today, the Okaloosa County School District has been notified that school sites will remain closed through April 15. During this statewide extension of school closures, we will continue to work closely with all agencies to ensure that the health and safety of our students remains our highest priority.

Education for students will resume.

In the past two weeks, we’ve been preparing for the possibility of an extended school closing by developing an educational continuity plan for students to continue their education from home. It will consist of age-appropriate online curriculum and will have dedicated pathways for teachers and students to communicate. Superintendent Marcus Chambers believes that Okaloosa’s employees and students are both up to the challenge ahead of them. “Okaloosa teachers, school staffs and students are the Best in Florida, and I have no doubt that we all will rise to the challenge in front of us.” Students will remain connected to the teachers they’ve had all year.

Like Okaloosa, districts throughout Florida will work through March 27th to complete their plans, train teachers and staff on the new delivery model, provide computers to students who may need them, and to ensure internet access for all students. According to Chambers, the district will put out a survey by Friday, March 20th to help identify which students will need equipment and other types of support in order to continue their education online. In addition to the survey, which may be difficult for the targeted families to access, the district will do a callout asking parents to notify them by phone of their needs. Said Chambers, “We’ll do what it takes to make sure that all students have the same opportunity to be successful.”

Education for our students in this new platform will begin on March 30. More information to parents will follow.

Additional information includes the following: • All school activities and events are cancelled until further notice. • All statewide testing for the school year has been cancelled. • We have not received final guidance on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or AICE testing at this time. These tests are critically important for students who are working to earn college credit through examination. We will monitor this closely and provide families with information as it is made available.

REMINDER – FOOD SERVICE BEGINS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18 We will begin feeding students using Grab and Go beginning tomorrow, March 18, at the ten sites listed below and will notify parents when additional sites are added next week. We are also exploring using school buses to deliver meals to certain areas of the county.

LOCATIONS BAKER - Baker School LAUREL HILL - Laurel Hill School CRESTVIEW - Northwood Elementary, Riverside Elementary NICEVILLE/VALP - Lewis School, Plew Elementary DESTIN - Destin Elementary FORT WALTON BEACH - Wright Elementary, Mary Esther Elementary, Edwins Elementary

MEAL PICKUP TIMES Weekdays from 7:30 a.m. – 11:30a.m. beginning Wednesday, March 18

OTHER INFORMATION State food service guidelines require the student to be present in order for meals to be distributed.

When a parent arrives at a meal site, they will be able to receive up to two meals for the day for each student they bring to the site (breakfast and lunch).

Students may pick up meals for themselves without a parent present.

The District will notify parents if meal sites are added the week of March 23rd.

From Washington County Schools:

As of today, Tuesday, March 17th, per information released to School Superintendents from the Department of Education, students will not return to school until April 15th, 2020.

Teachers will return to work on Monday, March 30th following our Spring Break. It is the intent from DOE that students can begin working remotely from home beginning March 30th. We will continue to work together as a District to finalize our Instructional Continuity Plan.

When we return, we will be following the new CDC recommended guidelines for meetings (no more than 10 people in a single occupied space). The District will be working closely with DOE for guidance in completing our plans. Be advised this timeline could change.

Additional information from DOE will be forthcoming.

Copyright 2020 WJHG. All rights reserved.
Governor Ron DeSantis to hold press conference at State Emergency Operations Center

Governor Ron DeSantis to hold press conference at State Emergency Operations Center

Posted by WJHG-TV on Tuesday, March 17, 2020