This past Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that current statewide school closures have been extended until at least April 15 in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
The order includes all public and private K-12 schools, including career and technical centers. All Florida K-12 school districts, colleges and universities should be prepared to extend their educational calendars through June 30, the Florida Department of Education has advised.
Along with the closures, the governor has announced additional unprecedented action for Florida schools in response to the outbreak: All state standardized testing has been cancelled through the remainder of the school year, and K-12 grades will not be calculated for the current term. Instead, all students will automatically be promoted to the next grade, though parents have the option of having their children held back if desired.
Schools are encouraged but not required to implement internet-based or other distance learning protocols; several private internet service providers operating in the state have stepped up to offer temporary free high-speed internet to qualifying families currently without hookups. Nearby colleges like Chipola, Tallahassee Community College and others have already implemented online instruction; the Department of Education is directing K-12 districts to use any unspent funds earmarked for the current term to help pay for implementation of online/virtual learning, including purchasing digital devices for low-income student families. Unspent funds may also be used to set up telephone/internet-based mental health counseling protocols, according to state education officials.
Though final details on online instruction in local districts have not yet been finalized, district leadership in both Jackson and Gadsden counties are encouraging parents to follow their respective districts on Facebook for updates.
Other school-related special measures implemented this past week include:
- Eligibility for Florida Bright Futures scholarships shall be based on available data and results; tests that were not available to be taken shall not be counted
- For the next 120 days, exam fees for teacher certification-related examinations will be waived, and test takers who were unable to take an exam due to test site locations closing will be granted an extension to meet these requirements
Special to The Herald