New emergency order for schools coming soon

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 4:34 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Parents can soon expect more clarity about how Florida schools will operate in January.

The current emergency order is set to expire at the end of the year, but the question on administrators’ minds is whether the new order will still give districts full funding for virtual students.

The State Board of Education opened its Wednesday meeting with a presentation from Florida’s first lady, who emphasized the need for in-person learning.

“It is invaluable for our students’ development and wellbeing,” said Casey DeSantis.

Shortly after, Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran addressed the elephant in the room: His emergency order set to expire at the end of the year.

“The governor will take nothing less than full parental choice,” said Corcoran.

The current order allows districts to receive the same level of funding for students who opt for distance learning as those attending in person, as long as they also provide brick and mortar options.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar says flexibility has been critical.

“If that funding goes away, there’s no way districts can offer that option and parents will either have to use a traditional virtual platform such as Florida Virtual School or what districts have in their own virtual programs. Or they will have to send them back to brick and mortar,” said Spar.

The commissioner said his next emergency order will still provide parents the option of virtual learning, but he didn’t commit to continuing to fund virtual students the same as those attending class in person.

“We’re going through that right now and working with the districts,” said Corcoran.

That lack of commitment troubles the teachers union.

“Districts need the flexibility. Parents need the flexibility,” said Spar.

Corcoran did mention he wants to ensure students who fall behind in virtual learning can easily transition to in-person classes, or at the very least get additional help.

“If they’re going to stay for medical reasons in that modality. What are the interventions? And we want to see them and know them,” said Corcoran.

The commissioner also said standardized testing will go forward next semester to identify achievement gaps the pandemic may have widened.

How or whether those test scores will impact school funding is still an open question.

The commissioner says he hopes to have the order finalized before Thanksgiving, or at the latest by the end of the month.

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