Will FL expand summer school and extend the school year in 2020-21? State Board of Ed faces questions

3rd grader reading a book in summer school (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

As Gov. Ron DeSantis gives the green light to open certain parts of Florida during COVID-19, K-12 public schools may be up for consideration, with education officials looking at ways for kids to return to physical classrooms and get caught up on learning.

“Summer programming expansion” will be considered in the mix of proposals  in what’s called a “COVID-19 Education Recovery Plan,” through the Governor’s Emergency Relief Funds authorized by the federal CARES Act.

The proposals also include “extended day, extended program or extended year,” in the 2020-21 academic calendar, to make sure students can get additional time and help so they don’t fall further behind.

And digital device shortages, such as laptops, and internet problems, will be discussed as well. Some families didn’t even have laptops to be able to do “distance learning” when brick-and-mortar schools closed this spring. And some kids didn’t even go online.

The remote learning has been challenging and studies have shown that students will likely be behind when they get back to school in 2020-21.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents also is weighing in on how to safely reopen schools and plans to present a report at the State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday. The meeting will be held via conference call, led by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

That report shows recommendations for a safe reopening of brick-and-mortar K-12 schools, which covers everything from social distancing measures to sanitation protocols.

Educators suggest supplying school buildings with digital thermometers, masks, gloves, soap, and sanitizer, to prevent potential COVID-19 infections. And if parents aren’t comfortable with their kids returning to school, they should be allowed to continue virtual learning under certain guidelines.

According to the “K-12 Return to School Recommended Guidelines,” the proposals include the development of a “Pandemic Education Response Team,” a statewide group of medical professionals “to establish the medical trend guidelines for re-opening schools” in Florida. The superintendent group will also receive guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Large crowds in gymnasiums and on the playground during recess and buses filled with students at close quarters raise concerns for public health officials.

“The Statewide Pandemic Education Response Team may need to consider a combination of social distancing/group gathering and personal protective measures/screening protocols to best mitigate exposure to COVID-19 while planning for a return to school that ensures the safety and well-being of all stakeholders,” the group said in the report.