PARKLAND, FL- Broward County Public Schools is asking families to sign a letter supporting the option to allow students to continue virtual learning through the end of the school year and not be required to return to in-person learning as early as January.
School administrators want the Florida Department of Education to extend an emergency order permitting online learning through the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
If the order is not extended, the district would lose nearly $200 million, which would require cutting staffing levels, according to the district.
Ivie Sparaco, of Coral Springs, signed the letter because she wants her son - a 10th grade student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - to continue taking virtual classes.
She said she fears the Covid-19 infection rate will continue going up, and it’s “ridiculous” to force students back into school buildings.
“I’m freaking out over this,” she said.
She said the virtual classes are working well for her son who also takes part in the school band and the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) program, both of which require after-school participation.
She doesn’t want him going back to school while the coronavirus is spiking or consider signing up for the Florida Virtual School program.
Parkland parent Lucy Rett hasn’t signed the letter yet, but she intends to.
Her daughter is an 8th grader at Westglades Middle School, who is also is taking virtual classes.
Rett said she is concerned about the staff at her school and others getting exposed to the virus as cases are climbing
"I don't feel comfortable sending my daughter back to class with cases increasing," she explained.
She wants parents to have the option -- like they have had during the fall semesters -- to decide if they want to continue online learning or send their children back to school.
“I think parents should have the option of e-learning through the remainder of the school year,” she said.
Broward School Board member and Parkland resident Lori Alhadeff, who represents Parkland, Coral Springs, Tamarac, Margate, and North Lauderdale, encourages parents, students, and others in the community to sign the letter as well.
“It’s really important for safety that we are able to continue to give the choice for eLearning. I urge parents to take a moment to send their letter to the governor and let their voice be heard,” she said.
The order for students to return to their school buildings is being pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as part of his efforts to reopen Florida from the coronavirus shutdowns.
DeSantis and his administration closed school buildings in March at the start of the pandemic. Since then, he permitted school districts to have the option of allowing virtual learning.
That option, though, is set to expire on Jan. 8.
Only about a fourth of registered students in Parkland returned for in-school learning when the option was made available in mid-October, according to school district data at that time. A fifth of students enrolled in Coral Springs schools returned to in-school learning.
Back then, only 2,259 students (27 percent) out of 8,249 students registered in Parkland schools headed back to their school campuses, according to the data.
Learn more or sign the district’s letter here.
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