Superintendents urge Florida to renew e-learning funding for students amid pandemic

At the beginning of the school year, parents made a choice about which type of learning they wanted for their children amid widespread COVID-19 precautions. While they'd hoped it wouldn't still be an issue by now, school superintendents want to keep one key option in place as infection rates continue to surge.

Keep e-learning available for students -- that's the push from school superintendents across the state as districts move closer to the second semester of classes with no set direction in place in terms of allowing students to keep learning from home, if that's what their parents choose. 

In a three-page letter dated Oct. 30, Florida's superintendents urged state officials to keep in place the funding provisions that allow districts to offer live remote classes to tens of thousands of students who want to learn from home during the pandemic. The state has not yet announced whether it will continue the funding approved in an emergency order over the summer. 

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That emergency order expires next month, and the uncertainty has led to parents and some local school officials feeling anxious over the prospect of forcing all students back into classrooms. Over the past few months, Gov. Ron DeSantis, as well as education commissioner Richard Corcoran, have given their own opinions about the merits of in-person learning, raising further concerns that e-learning funding might disappear when it expires in December. 

Some parents have turned to Facebook groups to mobilize and demand an e-learning extension from the state. They argue that it should be up to families to decide the best option for their children as the pandemic enters what could become its most devastating phase yet. 

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The Florida Association of District School Superintendents is recommending that the state extend e-learning through the end of this school year, pledging that districts will keep working to provide remediation and support for students who are falling behind in the home-learning setting. 

Meanwhile, Department of Education officials say they're not planning to force everyone back into classrooms amid a pandemic. We're expecting an announcement from the state education department by mid-November on what choices families will have.