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Letter sent to thousands of struggling Duval HomeRoom students to return to brick-and-mortar

Duval County Public Schools is sending letters strongly encouraging students struggling with Duval HomeRoom to come back to the classroom.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Thousands of students are falling behind with online learning.

Duval County Public Schools is sending letters strongly encouraging students struggling with Duval HomeRoom to come back to the classroom.

One teacher feels this adds to the risk of teachers and students getting COVID-19 in school.

Chris Guerrieri teaches life skills to transition students in Duval County Public Schools. He teaches in-person classes, but a colleague alerted him about letters being sent to some students learning online.

“A teacher reached out to me and said that a parent reached out to them to ask why their student was failing, and why are they learning about it through a letter?" Guerrieri said. "Well, the teacher was like, ‘well, your student's not failing, they have a B average."

Story continues below.

He says teaching during a pandemic is challenging, but he doesn’t like the idea of bringing thousands of kids back to school.

“I think we could all agree that being in school is the preferred way. But you know what? Safety right now has to be our No. 1 priority,” Guerrieri said.

A total of 17,299 families got a letter from DCPS this semester saying their students are not making satisfactory progress, according to the district.

DCPS says students who received that letter met at least one of these three criteria: they received a D or F in English/Language Arts and/or Reading, a D or F in Mathematics, an Achievement Level 1 score on the district’s Progress Monitoring Assessment test in Math or English/Language Arts, or an attendance rate less than 90%.

The district referred to the Florida Department of Education’s school opening requirements that school districts offering alternative learning options outside of brick-and-mortar must notify families of students not achieving certain requirements.

According to the letter, parents must choose one of three options: notify their school they already decided to go back to brick-and-mortar for the fourth quarter, cancel Duval HomeRoom and move to brick-and-mortar on March 23 or stay in online classes.

“I fully understand that my child is failing to make adequate academic progress in Duval HomeRoom and this could result in his/her retention in the current grade level,” the letter states.

Guerrieri understands the district is following state guidelines but feels teachers have a better idea of where their kids stand.

“This letter undermines the teachers and then upsets the parents,” Guerrieri said.

“I think it would have to be taken on an individual basis. But it doesn't sound to me that’s what the district did,” Guerrieri said.

The school district says Duval HomeRoom families have until March 12 to make a decision.

Parents are encouraged to find the cancellation forms in their Focus account.

Directions for completing the form are as follows:

1. Log into your Focus Parent Account

2. Select the student as listed above

3. Select Child Info

4. Select Forms

5. Select Spring Opening Plan Letter

6. Select one option, confirm and Submit Request