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UPDATED: PBC School Board Favors Online Option, to Vote Next Week


Palm Beach County parents: Get ready to return to virtual-only education next month.

A majority of School Board members said at a workshop on Wednesday night that they favor having students learn from home when the school year starts Aug. 10.

They explained that the spread of coronavirus still poses too much of a risk to students, teachers and school employees, and say social distancing would be difficult in school.

Board member Marcia Andrews said it would be “insane” to bring students back.

Fellow Board member Karen Brill agreed with her, adding, “I do not believe we can safely open brick-and-mortar schools on Aug. 10.”

COVID-19 is now spreading across Florida faster than anywhere in the country except Arizona.

Palm Beach County had 18,231 confirmed cases and 569 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Health.

Broward is also considering virtual-only learning, as well as in-classroom learning with a virtual option, and a hybrid that would bring students into school buildings two or three days a week.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade schools will not open their buildings until that county enters Phase 2 of reopening after the pandemic. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are currently in Phase 1, which includes limited openings of restaurants and other businesses.

A new state order that was issued on Monday says all students must have the option of a traditional school calendar.

However, the requirement could be waived if local or state health departments deem such plans unsafe, according to the order signed by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said Thursday that over 3,000 children under age 18 have been tested for the virus.

Nearly one-third of the children who got tested were infected, she said.

Teachers’ unions in Broward and Palm Beach have also told their school boards that teachers prefer to begin the year with remote-only learning in order to ensure their safety.

Board member Debra Robinson, who is a retired doctor, says the Palm Beach School District also needs to overcome obstacles that affected learning when schools shut down last March, such as students not logging on to their computers each day, children lacking adequate supervision at home, and children who depend on schools for their meals.

Superintendent Donald Fennoy will make an official recommendation to the board on July 15, when the board is scheduled to vote on how to start classes on Aug. 10.



The Palm Beach County School Board reviewed several options on Wednesday for reopening schools for the upcoming academic year.

The school district’s Reopening Task Force presented school board members with a 32-page presentation that considers the challenges and opportunities of each reopening option.

At this time, officials are considering three educational options for students: full-time in-person instruction on campus, full-time distance learning, or a hybrid combination of the two.

Based on recent parent surveys and feedback, the district said more than one option may be necessary.

“I wrestle with the reality of knowing the decisions we make will impact our most fragile children,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Students in Palm Beach County are currently scheduled to begin the new school year on Monday, Aug. 10.

Wednesday’s discussion comes two days after the Florida Department of Education issued an order requiring public school districts around the state to open their campuses five days a week.

According to Dr. Fennoy, the School District of Palm Beach County has some flexibility with that mandate, as the district considers taking recommendations and advice from health leaders.

A panel of health experts has advised the school board not to reopen campuses until the pandemic improves.

The health advisory committee, Fennoy said, “stated emphatically on Monday that, based on the current number of COVID cases in Palm Beach County, members could not recommend in-person instruction at this time.”

Earlier on Wednesday, President Trump said he would cut federal funding to school districts that do not reopen for in-person classes in August.

The school board is expected to make a final decision on its reopening plan at its July 15 meeting.