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Schools Must Be Ready to Operate at Full Capacity in August

July 7th, 2020 by Jake Stofan

Florida’s Commissioner of Education has ordered K-12 schools to open at full capacity in August.

Education groups worry the goal may be too optimistic after a month of record setting case numbers that shows little sign of slowing down.

The order from the Education Commissioner says schools must reopen all brick and mortar buildings at full capacity at least five days a week.

“If we had to open schools today I would say absolutely not,” said Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram.

To Ingram, the order is a dramatic shift from the local control centered reopening guidelines the department released in June.

“This has been hoisted upon us in the middle of a crisis where it doesn’t seem that our state has control of what’s going on around us,” said Ingram.

Andrea Messina with the Florida School Boards Association said there is some flexibility to provide ‘innovative’ learning in the order.

“Blended models, I think alternative platforms. Anything that is not the traditional classroom, bricks and mortar experience,” said Messina.

The order was issued just hours after the President tweeted, ‘Schools must open in the fall’.”

But Ingram hopes politics weren’t the deciding factor.

“Because a tweet does not make policy and it should not make policy for the State of Florida,” said Ingram.

And Messina said with the state continuing to see record case numbers, the order comes at a challenging time.

“There are communities that are not prepared for five days a week,” said Messina. “So allowing those to have some alternative plans I think is really going to be crucial.”

The order does waive the requirement schools provide 180 days of instruction.

That could provide some flexibility in the event they’re forced to close again.

We reached out to the Department of Education for comment on this story, but did not hear back in time.

The Education Commissioner also declined to be interviewed.

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