UDPATE: Schools prepare for potential full online transition

Santa Rosa County’s k-12 schools have been ordered shuttered through at least April 15 by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

To prepare for the worst case scenario, school district administrators are developing a plan to transition to full online learning for the entire fourth quarter of the school year, said assistant superintendent Bill Emerson. Emerson oversees instruction and curriculum for the district. 

“What we are working toward is to provide the opportunity for students to get the same instruction they would have gotten in the fourth quarter. We will come up with a plan and get it done,” Emerson said. 

FDOE Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced the new April 15 closure date in a press release Tuesday evening. 

In the meantime, schools are being encouraged to operate virtually or through other non-classroom-based means to the greatest extent possible to implement distance learning. 

Districts have until March 30 to develop an instructional continuity plan, to be implemented on March 30 Emerson said. And the school board is barred from conducting regular meetings to that effect. Instead meetings must be held only for emergency purposes and only virtually or telephonically.

Emerson said they want to ensure students are still receiving the material they would have normally been taught. Not always an easy task when covering every subject for grades pre-k through 12th. 

“We are going to try to identify what topics and standards are taught in the fourth quarter. It’s not like we have to cover a certain number of days. We need to cover the topics,” he said. 

Further complicating the process is that not all students have readily accessible internet service or devices to use for instruction. School districts have been instructed to use certain unspent funds to provide devices and internet access to students, but that can be a challenge. 

“You could work a year on this and still have lots and lots of details that you missed,” he said. The district has less than two weeks.  

School districts have also been instructed to prepare to extend their educational calendars through June 30 “to the extent feasible and necessary.”

In a press conference, state officials said the decision to close schools for the rest of the year or set a return to class date will be made by the end of this week. 

Corcoran has announced that K-12 school grades will not be calculated and the required number of instructional hours may be reduced to accommodate the closure. All remaining assessments for school readiness, voluntary prekindergarten and K-12 assessments are cancelled for the 2019-2020 school year.

Students will be evaluated for progression as though those assessments did not exist, and parents can opt to keep their child in their current grade level for the next school year. 

Other important announcements by FDOE: 

  • To support students with identified IEP-related services who may have a disruption in services, school districts are given flexibility for the remainder of the school year to provide alternative services or delay services until later in the summer months, in coordination with a student’s parents and IEP team. 
  • 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. 
  • The Florida Department of Education and K-12 school districts are instructed to redirect unspent 2019-2020 funds from Reading Scholarship Accounts, the Reading Instruction Allocation, the Digital Classroom Allocation and the Teachers Classroom Supply Assistance Program to help low-income students purchase digital devices and establish Internet services. 
  • In order to facilitate the remote connection between teachers and students, K-12 school districts are further permitted to redirect unspent Title 2 funds to help low-income students purchase digital devices and establish Internet services. 
  • K-12 school districts are permitted to redirect unspent 2019-2020 funds from the Safe Schools and Mental Health allocations to virtual and telephonic mental health counseling services for students who need emotional support due to COVID-19. 
  • All school readiness, voluntary prekindergarten, K-12, career and technical centers and state college programs will receive their full allocation of funding, and therefore staff and contractors can be paid fully, through June 30, 2020, as though there was no disruption in education.   
  • 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. 

Original, March 18: By order of Governor De Santis, Santa Rosa Schools will close March 23rd through at least April 15 in response to the COVID-19, virus. Additionally, all extracurricular activities including athletics (practice or play) are canceled. Employees should remain in contact with your school or department during the spring break to receive updates. The Santa Rosa School District will be setting up a distance learning program. More details will be available later. 


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