Jacksonville prepares for uncertain school year

The Jacksonville school year starts off with uncertainty

Duval County schools are set to open on August 20th, and quite a few local private schools will be opening even earlier than that. This date represents a small delay from the original school year schedule, but will it provide the time necessary for students and staff to adapt to the pandemic?

Let’s take a quick look at some adjustments and options that are available:

  • Online options – All students will continue to be eligible for Duval Homeroom and Duval Virtual Instruction Academy. It’s powered by Florida Virtual, and it’s been a great alternative to traditional classroom instruction for years.
  • Mandatory masks – All students will also be required to wear masks on the bus and inside school buildings. Masks have been proven to slow the spread of the virus, but the tricky part will be ensuring that all students comply at all times. This could be especially difficult with younger children.
  • Hybrid instruction – If remote learning sounds good, but isn’t practical full time, students will also have options available for a hybrid schedule for the first three weeks of school. This might help some parents make the transition back to work, but it’s still a temporary measure for now.

Plan for uncertainty

While teachers, administrators, and staff are doing what they can to ensure the upcoming school year is successful and safe, there is also a lot of uncertainty that remains. The best idea would be to plan for this to persist – and to try to stay as flexible as possible.

Early examples of school reopenings in Georgia have not gone well. One user posted the following image to Twitter:

Two students were suspended for “leaking” the photos to the internet, but the school district quickly reversed course after facing backlash. Schools in Paulding, Georgia, opened on Monday the 3rd of August. But by the 10th, they were ordered to be closed for two days after news of nine new COVID cases.

This back and forth presents a new unique challenge for parents. While the school districts have emphasized the need to return to in-person instruction and regular workday schedules, the parents are now randomly being told that their students will be home after all. In the rush attempt to create normalcy and stability, they’ve instead created an even more unpredictable schedule where the school will intermittently close while claiming to be back to normal. Parents are, rightfully, expressing frustration:

How to help

The best thing any of us can do to help Jacksonville’s school year is to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Wear masks while indoors and practice social distancing as much as possible while outside. Avoid unnecessary gatherings, and limit travel to essential activities like groceries, work, and medical appointments.

While younger people and students are not particularly at risk, they are quite capable of catching and spreading the infection. As always, donations for supplies are appreciated, but please note that some of the collection procedures have changed from previous years.

Have any other ideas to help out? Advice for students, teachers, and parents? Other concerns that haven’t been addressed? Sound off and let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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