From the School Board of Orange County Newsroom

It was a grueling day and late night for the Orange County School Board (Board) meeting last week on Tuesday, July 14. A steady, assertive stream of parents, teachers and concerned residents shared their thoughts, emotions, questions and concerns on the topic of schools reopening next month in person and over the phone. The phone system that connected the callers had stops and starts, lost calls, and hard-to-hear moments, and the concerns voiced in a wide-range of intonation and manner. Despite the wearying length and heavy topic, the Board members persevered, professional to the end.

Orange County Public School Board Members: FIRST ROW left to right: District 5 – The Honorable Dr. Kathleen “Kat” Gordon; The Honorable Teresa Jacobs, Chair; District 4 – The Honorable Pam Gould, Vice Chair; SECOND ROW, left to right: District 6 – The Honorable Dr. Karen Castor Dentel; District 1 – The Honorable Angie Gallo; District 3 – The Honorable Linda Kobert; District 7 – The Honorable Melissa Byrd; District 2 – The Honorable Johanna Lopez 

And the end finally, mercifully, came when it was agreed and approved to postpone their vote until the end of the week in order to better deliberate with more information. The follow up special Board meeting was set for Friday, July 17.

The Board gathered again at 9AM, as scheduled last Friday, at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center, while also utilizing virtual conferencing. The highlights of the meeting were few and straight-forward:

  • According to School Board Member Melissa Byrd, District 7, she proposed that the Board ask for local control over deciding when they open, and the Board agreed, making the decision to seek a waiver from the state to allow local discretion regarding the start of school, based on local data. If approved, this would allow the Board to make the choice of if and when to reopen OCPS schools based on the local county data of COVID-19 cases and medical safety recommendations by Orange County health officials, rather than as directed from the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee.

“I feel it’s vital that we ensure the safety of our employees and children,” said Byrd. “[But] if we do open in August, I believe parents have great options and should choose the one that’s best for their family’s situation.”

  • The Board set the start date, tentatively, for Friday, August 21.
  • Parents will be allowed to make the choice for their child’s instructional model and will be required to turn in their choice by July 24. They have three choices as follows:

Instructional Model Choices

•. Face-to-Face – On campus, regular schedule, five days a week as required by the state in an emergency order.

•. OCVS Virtual – This has been a fully accredited OCPS school model in place for 10 years. This provides location, time and pace flexibility.

•. Innovative – OCPS LaunchEd@Home provides a live stream for each class, following a traditional bell schedule. This option provides location flexibility, while also offering continuity of student experience and campus connections, as well as wrap-around support services.

Both the Innovative plan and the waiver request have been submitted to the state for approval.

In the meantime, a choice registration survey has been sent out for parents to choose one of the three learning models. It’s interesting to note that the Board, in order to maximize safety efforts, encourages parents to select the OCPS LaunchEd@Home, if able to keep their child at home.

An assignment preference survey will also be sent to teachers to indicate which model they prefer to work in.

Click here to review further the school reopening details.

For more information on how to watch and participate in future Board meetings, they will be live-streamed on the School Board’s YouTube page and will be accessible from web browsers on computers or mobile devices. To find the live stream, visit www.boardmeetings.ocps.net.

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