CONTRIBUTED

Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday evening announced that all Florida families will have a choice between in-person and online instruction when the new school year starts next month. 

But since his announcement, officials at the Monroe County School District have been fielding phone calls and Facebook comments from concerned parents wondering what they’re expected to do and how they can be expected to make any decisions now.

“Although the governor has referred to ‘in-person’ instruction, that may not necessarily mean in-classroom, or face-to-face learning,” said Becky Herrin, spokeswoman for the Monroe County School District, who has recommended that the school district stop using the terms ‘in-person’ or ‘face to face’ instruction and instead use ‘classroom-based learning” to avoid confusion when referring to returning to school. 

Parents currently have two options for a return to school in the district.

Option 1 is classroom-based learning provided through the local school district by local teachers who will be assigned specific classes and students, although those classes may take place in a physical school building and classroom or virtually. Such decisions will be made in cooperation with the health department based on the virus spread in the community and the associated risks, Herrin said.

Option 2 is Monroe Virtual School which is all virtual and offered at a district level, but may not be taught by the county’s own teachers. This second option requires a semester-long  commitment. There is more information about this option on the school district’s new blog, mymcsd-fl.blogspot.com. 

A third option is Florida Virtual School. This is offered by the state of Florida and Monroe County School District does not receive any per-student state funding for students enrolled in Florida Virtual School.

“No decision has been made yet at the district level,” School Board Chairman Mindy Conn told Keys Weekly on Thursday, July 23. “I’m thinking we won’t make a decision before August 1. We have an open conversation going with (Health Department Administrator) Bob Eadie and other medical professionals. Any decision we make will be in coordination with the medical community and be what they believe is the best thing for Monroe County.”

In his Wednesday, July 22 televised announcement, DeSantis warned Floridians not to let fear dictate decisions.

“The hard truth is that our kids are at the least risk and play the smallest role in transmitting the virus, but they have borne the heaviest burden throughout all of this,” he said, adding that counties will have flexibility if they need to delay their opening date by a few weeks.

“Have at it,” the governor said.

Keeping school campuses closed, DeSantis said, would “exacerbate achievement gaps” for struggling students and “have a disproportionate impact” on low-income students and working parents. 

“The risks associated with online learning are low, but the costs are enormous,” he said.

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