Officials with Duval County Public Schools held a news conference Wednesday to discuss further information about their plan to use Duval Home Room as their online learning portal amid COVID-19.

School Board Chairman Warren Jones called the current situation "truly new territory" and likened it to The Twilight Zone. 

"Extraordinary times have the potential to bring out extraordinary people and extraordinary effort," Warren said. "Even amidst this continually changing landscape, we have crafted an innovative home program that will continue to develop and deliver exceptional education to our students, and a big part of the solution are our teachers and staff."

Kerry Brady with the Duval Teachers Union said they have never experienced a situation like the current one, but they are confident thanks to the leadership of Duval County Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. Brady said they will be ready for online learning and will maintain a high bar for their curriculum.  

"Our work is not over," Brady said. "We will have hiccups and bumps. But they will not be downfalls, because failure is not an option when we are instructing and working for the betterment of the educational learning community and that's our students." 

Dr. Greene said public education has a special role to play in these current times. 

"We must re-engage our children with education and connection with the teachers and educators in their lives," she said.

Greene said starting Monday, they will bring their classroom to the students via Duval Home Room. 

She said almost all instruction will move to online platforms, which students in secondary education should already be familiar with from school. Teachers will be able to connect in real-time online and through teleconferencing. 

"For elementary grade students, fully online education will be a challenge," Greene said. "Not many elementary students are engaged in full-time virtual school. Therefore we understand there must be supplemented packets that support these students."

Greene said they will be using their bus contractors to deliver the educational packets to the students. The packets will include online and teleconference instruction. Those services will also be in place for their English language students and Exceptional Education Students. 

They are also working to continue to provide mental health services through audio and video teleconferencing, thank to help from other community partners. 

Additionally, beginning Monday, 'grab-n-go lunch' will still be offered at schools. They will also be able to deliver those meals daily.

Currently, they are surveying parents to understand their availability of technology in their homes. They are asking all parents to take the survey as soon as possible, but if they do not have access to the internet, they can call 904-348-5200. 

They will be working to send laptops to high school and middle school students who need them over the weekend and then "fill the gap" for elementary students as quickly as possible. Over the weekend they will also be working to launch their website specifically geared toward Duval Home Room. 

"Over this week and through tomorrow we are fully orienting school leadership to the distance learning environment so they are fully prepared to support their teachers," Greene said. "Friday we will engage with teachers and other school-based personnel to provide their orientation, training to this new way of delivering instruction."

All of the curriculum links and meal details will be found on the website once it is launched.

By Friday of next week, their objective to have almost all, if not all, students "fully engaged in meaningful instruction". 

"We could have easily taken another week off, but the easy decision is not usually the best decision," Greene said. 

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