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Florida Superintendents Ask Tallahassee To Offer Remote Option In Spring

Uncertainty reigns about plans for the second half of the school year, as Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran's emergency order expires soon.

The statewide association of school superintendents has asked Tallahassee to allow schools to continue to offer remote-learning after winter break, as many school leaders worry about a cut in funding in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

An emergency order issued over the summer by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran called for all schools to offer full-time instruction beginning in August.

Families could also choose remote or virtual options, without their school district taking a financial hit from dropping enrollment.

That emergency order expires at the end of December.

Pinellas County School Supt. Michael Grego, who heads the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS), sent a letter October 30 asking Corcoran to draft a new emergency order that would continue funding for schools at pre-coronavirus levels of enrollment.

“FADSS recommends maintaining funding stability for school districts through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) based on the forecasted FTE (full-time enrollment) for the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year,” the letter says.

“While student enrollment in many districts was initially down significantly, particularly in kindergarten and prekindergarten, through the diligent efforts of district personnel, enrollments have begun to increase with students returning to a brick and mortar setting.”

Grego also asked the state to allow remote learning — described in the letter as “the innovative learning option” — to continue through the end of the spring term for students who choose it.

“This would preserve parental choice and allow students to receive continuity for both face-to-face instruction and virtual instruction for those families who need to remain remote due to COVID-19 issues,” he wrote.

Grego promised that districts will make targeted efforts to help students who may have fallen behind academically.

The state department of education has not said what it plans to do, but that an announcement would be made sometime in November.

Corcoran has advocated for returning students to brick-and-mortar classrooms, saying that in-person instruction is superior to remote learning.

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Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.