Corcoran orders Monroe schools to provide full-time on-campus learning

Students in Monroe County Public Schools will be able to return to their classes five days a week before the end of this month.

The school district is propose a plan for the complete reopening under the pressure of the State Commissioner for Education.

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Since last September, Kindergarten to Grade 5 students have attended school in person every day, while most middle and high school students in the Keys attend in person every other day and take distance education on the other days.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Friday sent a letter to Monroe Superintendent Theresa Axford, saying that unless all students have the opportunity to attend school five days a week, ” that would be grounds for the ministry to withdraw its approval of Monroe’s spring 2021 education plan. “

This could mean the loss of public funds for the district. In its letter, Corcoran said full-time in-person attendance should be available to all students by March 15. Despite state approval of the plan to reopen the district, the commissioner wrote that schools in Monroe County “may not fully comply” with his order to offer classroom instruction five days a week.

In a response on Saturday, Axford wrote that the district disputes the idea that it is out of step with Corcoran’s decree regarding the reopening of schools. She argued that the ordinance authorized local decision-making in consultation with public health officials, including the local health ministry office – and that this had led Monroe to have “one of the rates of lowest transmission among Florida school districts. . “

She also called for the full reopening date to be pushed back to March 29, because 12 of the 18 employees of the Upper Keys Transportation Department have tested positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus. This forced the district to review its bus lines. The quarantined staff are expected to return to work on March 15 – then the district will go on spring break from March 22 to 26.

On Saturday, the Monroe District sent out a press release letting parents know it was working on a full-time back-to-school plan – which would be optional. The district is in the process of setting up a parent survey, which will be available online and in print.

In a statement on Sunday, Axford said the commissioner’s order took the decision to attend a full-time classroom “out of our hands.”

“I’m worried that this will prevent us from following CDC and Department of Health guidelines on social distancing. The number of COVID cases and the positivity rates in our population are still of concern, ”she said in the statement. “I also believe that our teachers are in danger. We are working to get them fully vaccinated, but that has not happened yet. “

Monroe County’s 7-day average for COVID-19 positivity as of Saturday, March 6 was 4.7%. The 14-day average was 5.48%.

The district has already appealed to students and parents do not travel during spring break, noting that CDC guidelines say you should get tested after travel and quarantine yourself for at least seven days – and that the district has scheduled important testing after school resumes on March 29.

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Jeffrey G. Foley

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