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Palm Coast Friday, Jul. 17, 2020 1 year ago

School district offers three instructional options for students this fall

Students can attend brick-and-mortar campuses, take iFlagler classes, or attend remote live instruction.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

What are the instructional options for local students this coming school semester? What happens if a student in a school tests positive for COVID-19? How will schools maintain social distancing? School district staff members answered those questions and more during a Town Hall event held over Zoom and hosted by School Board member Colleen Conklin July 16.

"There is no one on this team — no one in this district — that does not want everybody to be safe, and we will do everything that we can to make sure that we are safe."


— COLLEEN CONKLIN, School Board member

"We’re working on setting up a safe environment for our employees to work and excel in, and all of our students to have a successful experience this upcoming school year," Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said.

This year, she explained, parents will have three options: Children can attend brick-and-mortar schools in person; they can take virtual classes via iFlagler; or they can sign up for remote live instruction in which they virtually attend their regular classes, but do so over Zoom. Parents must select an option for their children by Monday, July 20, or the district will sign them up for brick-and-mortar attendance. The third, remote-live option was just added days ago.

"Our families right now need to be reaching out to their schools if they think this is the right path for learning for their students next year," Mittelstadt said. 

Diane Dyer, the district's executive director of Teaching & Learning, elaborated on the differences between the two online options: Virtual classes via iFlagler will require students to be independent learners working on each class 3-5 hours per week, with a pacing guide. Attendance will be taken weekly. The remote live model will be just like what is happening in the classroom — the same curriculum, assignments, breaks, assessments and reading assignments — except that students will be watching and interacting with their teacher and other students via a webcam. They will have to log in every day via Zoom. 

Students attending iFlagler will be issued MacBooks in all k-12 grade levels, while students who are attending remote live classes will be issued iPads in grades k-8 (with external keyboards for middle schoolers), and MacBooks for the high school grades.

For students who are attending brick-and-mortar classrooms, said David Bossardet, the district's safety specialist, the district is still finalizing its guidelines for dealing with COVID-19.

The district is also still determining which speciality programs – such as International Baccalaureate or the i3 program – might be offered through remote learning.

One thing has been determined: Students in grades 3 and up will be required to wear face coverings in places in which social distancing to a minimum of 6 feet isn't possible — for instance, on school buses or in corridors. For younger students, face coverings will be "strongly encouraged."

Leadership Development Executive Director Earl Johnson said the district will add outside lunch options to minimize the number of students who are in the cafeterias at once, and custodial services will use disinfection machines to fully sanitize each school weekly. The district is increasing the filter ratings in schools' HVAC systems, and adjusting the systems to move more outside air into buildings. 

The district will also add bus routes and increase the number of buses in order to decrease the number of students per bus. Bus drivers will have boxes of masks to distribute to students who step on without one.

The district is also bringing back its nurses early this year to enhance safety protocols, is adding additional clinic personnel, and will be providing additional spaces at school clinics, so that students who begin showing symptoms of COVID-19 while at school can be kept distanced from other students. 

If a student or staff member tests positive, they would need to quarantine for at least 14 days, and the Health Department would conduct contact tracing, with quarantine or testing of close contacts — people who have been within 6 feet, for more than 15 minutes, of a person who tested positive.

Tests are provided free of charge at the county's testing locations, and insurance is covering the cost at other locations. 

The district will be notified when students have been ordered to quarantine, so that parents will not have to get a doctor's note.

Florida Department of Health-Flagler Administrator Bob Snyder urged parents to take the district's mask requirement seriously, noting that in the past four weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases in Flagler County has risen from 214 to 575, and the positivity rate has increased from under 1% to 6.4%

"The surge began in the state of Florida probably about six weeks ago, and it began here four weeks ago," Snyder said. "Don’t want to mince words, but the situation is dire statewide."

Snyder said that all of the public health officials that he knows are supporting face covering requirements.

Conklin added, "If you don’t want your child to wear a mask at all, and you are 100% against wearing a mask ... we would really strongly encourage you to consider the other [online learning] options."

People whose children learn well online, and who don't need to send their children to school in order to return to work, should also consider the online options, she said, to maintain the brick-and-mortar spaces for families that must return to work or have a student attend in person because they have trouble learning online.

"If you’re able to virtually or remotely continue your child’s education, that decreases the numbers that are on campus," Conklin said. "There is no doubt that we’ll get through all of this together. Please be patient with us. There is no one on this team — no one in this district — that does not want everybody to be safe, and we will do everything that we can to make sure that we are safe."


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