Back to School

Fifth grader Amanie Upton poses with her teacher Kelly Miller during the Drive-thru Graduation for 5th Graders at South Daytona Elementary School on Tuesday, June 2.

Schools across Volusia County will resume Aug. 31.

The Volusia County School Board voted unanimously July 21 to push the date out further than neighboring counties, who have opted to reopen Aug. 24.

Public comments overwhelmingly showed real concerns about starting at all, particularly in brick and mortar buildings. Several teachers even threatened lawsuits if they die of Covid-19 if schools reopen before the curve flattens significantly.

Facemasks in schools were another agenda item with the general rule that facemasks are required for children in schools where social distancing is not possible. Children would have to wear masks on school buses. Adults entering school buildings will have to wear masks. Athletic activities and children with special needs where they cannot wear masks may be exceptions.

The School Board was required by the Florida Commissioner of Education’s Emergency Order to open schools with safety measures in place for students and staff. VCS is also committed to providing options to parents and teachers.

Besides the traditional five-day week in a school building, parents have other options.

The state Department of Education Monday approved Volusia's second option, Volusia Live (real-time live streaming) with a student's school. Students will remain at home, but follow the same daily class schedule as their classmates who are in traditional school. Students will participate in classroom instruction by logging in on a device, and engaging with their teacher and classmates virtually, by using platforms, such as Zoom or Teams. The students are expected to log in and out on time for class every day. They are also expected to engage in classroom activities. Attendance will be taken.

A third option is Enhanced Volusia Online Learning. This is an at-your-own pace, virtual option that has been available to VCS students for years. Volusia County teachers provide instruction in flexible formats. There is not a set schedule. Extra-curricular activities and clubs are available. Enrollment ends today (July 31). For more information, visit volusiaonlinelearning.com.

Dr. Carmen Balgobin, interim Volusia County Schools Superintendent, stated, “As a school district, we cannot operate independent from our community and consider that we will be successful. As a community we cannot operate independently from a school system and be successful. To our students, staff and parents, let’s always remember that coming together and working together will make us stronger. This is the time for us to come together and work together for the safe reopening and to ensure that our students and staff have what they need to be successful despite our current circumstances.”

Board member Carl Persis stated, “We’re going to submit a waiver to the state for them to consider not forcing us to open brick and mortar schools until such time as we have that positivity rate under 5% for 14 consecutive days. If you really want to do the absolutely safe thing, backed by science, unless the CDC comes out with a different guideline, which they’re supposed to do by the end of (July), I’m going to go with what the scientists are saying is the safe way to open up brick and mortar schools and not before then. Anything else I think is just arbitrary. We’ve taken the boldest action of any district and extended it to the limit, the last day of August.”

Board Member Linda Cuthbert agreed, stating, “Without your health, you’ve got nothing.”

Volusia County Schools’ plans remain fluid during these unprecedented times with school board members considering whether or not to request a waiver from the state that only virtual learning open in August. There are problems with that concept as well though as the technology needed may not be available for all district students. Currently the state is mandating that all public schools begin in August.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to review the choices to better understand what might be best for their family. The Reopening Roadmap 2020-21 website features a video message from Dr. Balgobin. It offers the Volusia County School Board presentations, frequently asked questions, and safety and health procedures. The Reopening Roadmap 2020-21 is available at vcsedu.org.

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