Palm Beach County School Board Agrees to Distance Learning, but Postpones Start of Classes

A major task ahead is the planned purchase of another 82,000 additional devices in order to make sure every student can access the course material.

By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter

DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – After a ten-hour meeting yesterday, July 15th, the Palm Beach County School Board agreed to a proposed “distance learning” plan, but also decided to delay the start of classes to allow more time to prepare, and ensure all students had computers and Internet access needed to learn online.

Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy started the meeting saying, “My hope is that despite your concerns you will encourage your children to make the best out of this situation. You are your child’s first and most influential teacher.” Later adding, “I give you my word that virtual learning in the fall will be much more robust and efficient than it was in the spring.”

The 52-page plan defines the specific roadmap to reopening the district’s approximately 180 campuses for 174,000 students. In a statement this morning, the school district confirmed, “early Thursday morning, the School Board approved the Superintendent’s reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.”

“The plan includes starting off the year with distance learning and reopening school campuses with a staggered approach as COVID-19 conditions improve,” the statement confirms.

Also adding, “The School Board decided to delay determining the official start dates for students and staff until they meet on July 22nd. The previously determined start date of August 10th will likely be pushed back.”

A major task ahead for the district is the planned new purchase of another 82,000 additional devices in order to make sure every student can access the course material. Deliveries are to begin on August 17th and continue with 10,000 units per week, drawing $25,063,721 in funding from the IT Capital Budget.

Also many students still lack regular high-speed internet access, so the district is moving to offer new options, including installing wireless internet “hot spots” in several low-income communities and sponsoring internet accounts for needy families.

Ali Kaufman, founder and CEO of Space of Mind school in Delray Beach admitted, “Families without access to technology will have a lot of obstacles in distance learning.”

“The PBC District has a plan to get these resources distributed, but it will take a few months to meet the full need. In the meantime, agencies like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and other community and family service organizations may be able to help,” she said.

As far as advise on how to prepare, Kaufman said, “When setting out to design the best school experience for this year, it’s important to consider the entire picture – a family’s lifestyle, resources (financial, technological and time), as well as the learner’s social, emotional, academic, creative and life skill readiness, strengths and challenges.”

She also suggested, “Reaching out to parents on facebook who are already homeschooling is a great first step. It’s important to remember that no one can learn – or teach – when they are stressed, so finding creative ways to teach innovation, grit and resilience right now is arguably the most important learning objective we can set.”

The School Board will meet again on Wednesday, July 22nd, to finalize the start date for classes, and determine the schedule for the remainder of the year which will likely all get pushed back 2-3 weeks.

The superintendent’s plan calls for campuses to begin admitting students again when the county moves into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.

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