If conditions aren't right for a reopening on Aug. 24, the district will reconsider a learn-from-home approach.
Flagler Schools is adjusting the school calendar to add two teacher workdays during the year — one on Oct. 26, and one on Jan. 19 — and pushing the end of the school year back by two days, from June 1 to June 3.
Teachers will still work a 196-day year (including six days of paid vacation), and students will get 179 days of instructional time.
The School Board approved the calendar change unanimously at an Aug. 4 special meeting.
"Why do all of the options for teachers involve in-person, face-to-face contact with students? ... Why are there NO options for immune-compromised teachers or those who have immune-compromised family members they take care of?"
— MELLA BAXTER, teacher
The change is a response to board concerns that an earlier iteration of the calendar — approved after the board decided to push the start of the school year back from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24 — was too dense, with insufficient breaks for students and staff during the year.
The board’s decision at the Aug. 4 meeting followed comments by numerous community members and school staff members who are concerned about the impending face-to-face opening of schools.
Although the school district is offering alternative, online-based options for students, who can enroll in iFlagler online classes or in remote-live instruction in which they follow along with regular, on-campus classes from home using a webcam — no such options exist at this point for school teachers and staff, who are expected to work on campus.
As of the Aug. 4 meeting, Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt told the School Board, 13% of the district’s students had opted for iFlagler classes, 23% for remote-live instruction and 63% for face-to-face instruction.
The reduced number of students on campus will make social distancing more feasible than it would be with full campuses.
“I would just say, hearing a lot of the public comments tonight, honestly it’s not a perfect response — but if you are concerned about your child and you are uncomfortable, then don’t send them,” School Board member Colleen Conklin said. “But those that are sending them ... this team is doing everything they can to ensure that they’re safe.”
She added that she would like the board to consider whether there should be a threshold number, in terms of community COVID-19 cases or percentages, that would trigger the district to move its classes to an online-only model.
“I think that opening schools provides a number of health benefits to our students, but there is without a doubt tremendous concern that, do we really know what we are dealing with?” she said. “I would like to try to gain some perspective so that there is something in regards to data we can look at, so we can separate as much as possible the emotion, and look at the science involved.”
She also expressed concern for school staff members who are worried about being on campus.
“We have a staff that is concerned, and they’re frightened, and they have a right to be validated … people need to know that we care about them, and that we’re very concerned about them as well,” she said.
Mittelstadt said that district staff is meeting to discuss how it would move to an online-instruction model for staff if that becomes necessary.
“From the beginning of the summer, we’ve always shared the fact that this is an ever changing event, and we will respond accordingly,” she said. “We are confident that we have built a plan that can be nimble and make adjustments.”
The district has also been looking at possibilities for an at-home teaching model, she said, and will hold an executive session next week to look at options. If conditions on Aug. 24 are no right for an in-person reopening, those options will be brought back to the School Board, she said.