School is almost in session in Alachua County Public Schools — whether students are present or not.
The Alachua County School Board passed its plan for reopening schools to the state government at a Tuesday meeting. With Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide executive order, school districts must submit an Innovative Learning Plan, which allows students to choose if they want to return to traditional school, listen to lectures of the Alachua County Digital Academy or learn at their own pace on eSchool, said ACPS Superintendent Karen Clarke.
Funding allocated to school districts this year will be determined by district compliance to the executive order, Clarke said. Districts that don’t comply will not receive full-time equivalent funding, or funding for the number of hours students are enrolled during an academic year, that helps pay teachers.
The board spent three hours discussing the Innovative Learning Plan template, but board members Leanetta McNealy and Eileen Roy said the plan isn’t final and will be adjusted to the changing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are obviously going to shut down schools the minute we open, it’s only a matter of time,” McNealy said after voting against passing the plan.
Parents, teachers and community members called in to express concern about teacher-student interaction and equity under different learning options for Fall.
Many parents shared concerns that students who choose to learn from home will fall behind those who learn in person. ACPS Superintendent Karen Clarke and School Board Member Tina Certain said all students need equal access regardless of the learning style they chose for the Fall.
Devices like iPads and laptops will be available for families, Clarke said, in an attempt to mitigate technological disparity among students. ACPS is purchasing an additional 6,000 devices for the next month.
Clarke ensured parents that ACPS will provide greater broadband internet services for all students in the Fall. Schools will also offer physical textbooks and materials for students in need of them, Clarke added.
Schools will also offer lunches, as well as weeklong supplies of food, for students who choose the brick-and-mortar or digital academy options, said Maria Eunice, the director of student food services.
During public comment, several callers asked about the district’s plans for students with disabilities who typically receive in-person assistance.. The school board hasn’t made final decisions on accommodations for students with disabilities and the staff that works with them.
“Things are not perfect right now,” Roy said. “It’s not set in stone.”