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Virtual Schools on the Table in Coronavirus Response

March 12th, 2020 by Mike Vasilinda

Concerns about the Coronavirus have the states leadership looking at digital learning options for K-12 Schools.

Plans so far include a beefed up Florida Virtual School and a survey of computer ownership.

Florida’s colleges and universities will hold online classes only for at least two weeks following their spring breaks.

The Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said he’s working on plans to do the same thing for public schools.

“We’ll have capacity here in the…it will grow day by day, but we’ll have capacity probably for a total of 400,000 over the 40,000 we have now for the virtual school. We’ve ordered 15 new servers,” said Corcoran.

But 400,000 seats is enough for less than 20 percent of the current students.

One option is assigning students certain hours of use outside the school day.

“In addition to that we have trainers of how to get on to the virtual system with he existing teachers. We’ll have training of an additional 10,000 teachers here in short order, hopefully in 15 or 20 days,” said Corcoran.

The education commissioner does not believe the expanded online capacity will be needed and said each district is working to decontaminate every school everyday.

Various school districts are across the state are surveying students to learn which ones have computers at home.

Rural districts are particularly concerned.

“How can they effect instruction at home? In rural areas, that’s simply…we are way behind the game,” said Chris Doolin with the Small County Coalition.

Also of concern is a $20 million budget shift from digital classrooms to what is called the base student allocation.

But Rep. Chris Latvala said the money could still be used for digital learning.

“So they can still use them how they wish,” said Latvala, adding he doesn’t foresee any issues arising.

The plan is still developing, just as the budget shift is still a work in progress, but the hope is it’s a lot of planning for nothing.

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