District hopes for face-to-face, but preps backup plans

Teachers are more prepared for seamless shift to online learning
By: | May 4, 2020
Students, the superintendent and a principal plan a virtual graduation in Florida's St. Lucie Public Schools.Students, the superintendent and a principal plan a virtual graduation in Florida's St. Lucie Public Schools.

Leaders at St. Lucie Public Schools in Florida are making multi-layered plans as they work to bring students and teachers back to classrooms next school year.

Educators there are hoping for as much face-to-face instruction as possible.

But ongoing health protocols and the space considerations will likely require some blend of online learning, Chief Academic Officer Helen Wild says.

“With our desire to keep class sizes small, we don’t expect to be able to do full face-to-face,” Wild says.

Administrators are planning for a 12-to-1 ratio of teachers to students when the school year begins while lessons will also be provided on the district’s cable channel.

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At home, students will have laptops and workbooks, and would come to school two days a week, Wild says.

Students not comfortable coming into school could be enrolled in the district’s virtual school.

A preview of what Fort Pierce Central High School's virtual graduation will look like.

A preview of what Fort Pierce Central High School’s virtual graduation will look like.

The district is also preparing for the possibilities of a late start and intermittent closures next school year.

And if virtual enrollment grows, the district is ready to shift classroom teachers to the online environment.

Teachers have now received training in online instruction and some have begun developing their own programs.

“If we did have a situation where we’re in and out of school, or a particular student is in and out of school, our teachers can transition to virtual much more seamlessly,” Wild says.

The big drop in tourism in Flordia and the overall business decline will certainly impact the district’s budget just it will likely need to fund smaller classes.

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“It is bad timing,” Wild says. “All of the scenarios we’re planning for cost extra money. It’s hard to reduce class sizes without increasing teacher.”

The social distancing, smaller class sizes and staggered bell schedules the district is preparing for will also complicate transportation.

Administrators are trying to determine how many buses they will need by figuring out how many students don’t need transportation service.

“We have multiple plans being written up,” Wild says. “We recognize that virtual learning is not necessarily for every style of learner or that it meets the needs of every family. We’re most worried about the children for whom this is not an ideal method.”

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