When schools began this fall, state officials required that school districts open each of their campuses — but also allowed districts to offer parents a new remote learning choice — without financial penalty.
Now, the state is considering how to handle the funding issue for the second semester of the school year.
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran met last month in a virtual meeting with representatives of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and said the state needs to have a clearer picture of enrollment data, and how that could affect second semester funding. He expects the state to be able to make that determination by mid-November, or Thanksgiving at the latest.
Corcoran said students receive a better quality of education when they receive in-person instruction. He said that having students on campus also helps with societal issues, such as providing meals, mental health and other services for students.
The issue came up at the Pasco County School Board’s Nov. 3 meeting.
“We’re still waiting to hear from the department,” Superintendent Kurt Browning told board members.
“We’ve been told it’s going to be mid-November before we get direction from the department as to whether or not they’re going to continue funding the virtual option. So, that being said, this district is planning as if we’re going to have the virtual option, moving into the second semester,” Browning said.
“I know that FADSS — the Florida Association of District School Superintendents — sent a letter Friday to the commissioner (Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran).
“I know I’ve had personal communications; Mr. (Ray) Gadd has had personal communications, with the commissioner,” Browning added.
They are pressing for a decision.
“If we wait ‘til mid-November, there are three weeks that have to come out of that equation. One for Thanksgiving break, and then the two for Christmas break.
“I really don’t want our principals working over Thanksgiving or Christmas, trying to get the massive amounts of work done, if the state so chooses not to provide the funding for the virtual option,” Browning said.
He wants the state to continue to support the remote learning choice.
“COVID is still out there, and not just for the kids, but my concern is also for the staff. We have staff members who have chosen to teach in the virtual realm, simply because health concerns, elderly parents, those kinds of things.
“It’s about the kids, but also about our teachers and staff,” Browning said.
Board chairman Colleen Beaudoin added: “And, about the kids’ families — the whole community.”
Board member Cynthia Armstrong said that removing the funding support could hurt the district.
“It’s about having choice for the parents. Some parents who really believe that they need to be online, if they don’t get it here in the district, they will go elsewhere,” Armstrong said.
Browning responded: “Those concerns have been conveyed.”
Erin Malone, spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Schools, put it this way: “Our district knows the importance of parents having options, especially during this uncertain time.”
Published November 11, 2020