LCS Moves Start Date to August 31, Chromebooks Delayed

At Tuesday’s Leon County School Board meeting, the Board approved the Leon County Schools 2020-2021 Reopening Plan and voted to push back the first day of school to August 31.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna outlined the finalized reopening plan, which includes implementing social distancing measures, requiring face coverings, and increasing sanitation. Earlier this month, parents were able to choose between brick-and-mortar or distance learning for their students.

Previously, the Board had planned to provide Chromebooks to every student in the district after voting to approve an $11 million one-to-one device plan. Hanna said the Chromebooks now likely will not arrive by the first day of school.

“We learned last week that there is a strong probability that our devices—it’s 32,500 devices—will not arrive by the first day of school,” Hanna said. “So, what we have done is we have gone to other vendors and have secured 6500 devices, nearly 7000 devices, from another vendor.”

Hanna said the devices are coming from another country and there are delays.

“We are making plans as if those 32,500 devices will not be here for the first day of school,” Hanna said. “And we have a good plan. We will be asking our parents and teachers like we did last year that those students that have devices, we’re going to ask them to use that device, and then we’ll supplement with these other 7000 that we’re purchasing that are on domestic soil along with the other approximately 11,000 we have in our supply in our current inventory.”

Hanna said the district will reach out to students attending the digital academies first to give devices to those who need them. Then, students learning in person will receive devices if they need them.

“We’re disappointed, but everyone in the country is lined up for devices,” Hanna said.

Later in the meeting, the Board discussed the 2020-2021 calendar and unanimously voted to delay the first day of school to August 31.

Superintendent Rocky Hanna had previously recommended pushing back the first day of school from August 19 to August 24. The Board voted to delay it further to August 31, which Hanna said will likely push the end date of the second semester into June 2021.

School Board member Ava Striplin, who made the motion, noted that August 31 is the latest schools can reopen under Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s emergency order.

Striplin said delaying the start date will not shift the teacher return date and that teachers will still return on August 10 and have three weeks to prepare for students. She said the school board will not adjust the start date again unless it is government-mandated.

Board Chair Dee Dee Rasmussen commented on the delay, saying the School Board has made an effort to accommodate students, parents, and faculty.

“We’ve preserved the brick-and-mortar option for those who choose that,” Rasmussen said. “We’ve offered the digital academy for those who want to school from home but with structure. And we’ve offered the Leon digital school for those who want more flexibility from home.”

Rasmussen said she thinks the district has accommodated most students, but she is worried that delaying the start date could negatively impact some students, especially those experiencing abuse or mental health issues.

“I’m just hoping and praying that just a few more days won’t so adversely impact them and that knowing that school is going to start…that hope will carry them and get them to where they need to be, too,” she said.

At the end of the meeting, the School Board unanimously approved sending the finalized reopening plan to the Department of Education.

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