With only about two months before the start of the next school year, Florida’s top education official — Commissioner Richard Corcoran — has yet to address the public about what to expect from the 2020-21 school year.
That leaves school districts, teachers, parents, and students in the dark for what fall semester will entail at a time when the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“Ultimately, the goal is to reopen our school campuses,” Cheryl Etters, director of communications at the Florida Department of Education, said in an email to the Florida Phoenix.
“We’re having to think about the entire picture – access to Internet, the school calendar, parents and teachers’ comfort with returning to school campuses. These are all related and cannot be solved in isolation.”
The Phoenix followed-up by asking to clarify how the education agency plans to address those issues, but the DOE has yet to respond.
The lack of state guidance from Corcoran and the Department of Education led to the formation of outside committees to get the conversation going.
The Florida Education Association created two committees to provide state officials recommendations for how to safely reopen PreK-12 schools and higher education. They released their recommendations to the public for PreK-12 Tuesday and higher education Wednesday.
While Corcoran has not announced solid plans to the public, FEA president Fedrick Ingram said the union has spoken with Corcoran since the recommendations were released.
“We have had a conversation with the commissioner since we delivered our recommendations. He has confirmed that the recommendations have been put in the hands of those who are working on the DOE’s guidance,” Ingram said in a written statement to the Florida Phoenix.
Superintendent of Leon County Schools, Rocky Hanna, appealed to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Corcoran Thursday to allow students to go back to schools. The request came in a virtual discussion on Facebook, when Hanna was addressing families in Leon schools, home of Florida’s state capital.
During the virtual discussion, Hanna gave parents an idea of how their district is planning to move forward in the upcoming school year, allowing for brick-and-mortar classrooms with the option to complete coursework online on a district-wide platform. He also promoted a survey to get the community perspective on the matter.
The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for July 15—about a month before Florida schools are expected to reopen.