TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — All public and charter schools must reopen brick-and-mortar schools five days per week for all students upon reopening in August, according to a new emergency order issued Monday by the Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.
The order states that "education is critical to the success of the state and to an individual, and extended school closures can impede educational success of students, impact families' well-being and limit many parents and guardians from returning to work." The order goes on to list the reopening requirements for the 2020 through 2021 school year.
Those requirements include ensuring services that are legally required for all students, such as low-income services, English language learning and accommodations for students with disabilities are all maintained next school year, the order states.
That means that the only option for schools to not be physically open in August is if local Department of Health officials say schools cannot open, according to the emergency order.
The order also means that school districts cannot schedule certain students to spend part of their time in school and part of their time at home, as educational leaders in several First Coast counties have indicated they are considering. Every student must have the option of being in school five days a week.
"Schools are not just the site of academic learning," the order explains. "Schools provide many services to students that are critical to the well-being of students and families, such as nutrition, socialization, counseling and extra-curricular activities."
The requirements for reopening include the following:
- All schools open: All school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick-and-mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health and local departments of health.
- Full panoply of services: School districts and charter school governing boards must provide the full array of services required by law so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick-and-mortar school full-time have the opportunity to do so.
- Progress monitoring: Robust progress monitoring must be extended to all students, with tiered support for students who are not making adequate progress. Students who are learning remotely must receive additional support, with the option to transition to a different teaching method if needed.
- Students with Disabilities: Students with IEPs must be given the services necessary to ensure they experience a free and appropriate education. School districts must immediately begin working with IEP teams to identify students who may have regressed during school closures.
- English Language Learners: If English Language Learners' English reading, writing, listening or speaking skills have regressed during school closures, school districts should convene an ELL Committee meeting with appropriate staff and parents to determine if additional services are needed.
- Charter school flexibility: School districts must extend the same flexibility in instructional methods to every charter school that submits a reopening plan to the sponsoring district addressing the requirements listed in the emergency order.
"There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride," the emergency order states. "School openings must be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health and local health officials and supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable."
All school districts will be required to submit a reopening plan to the state that meets the requirements listed in the emergency order.
The emergency order comes the same day President Donald Trump posted a tweet emphatically stating "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!"
The full text of the DOE's emergency order can be found below.