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Palm Beach County approves giving parents choice once in-person teaching resumes

New plan eliminates phased reopening
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Posted at 10:29 AM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 19:48:41-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County School Board voted Wednesday, 6-1, to allow parents to decide when their children should return to classrooms once in-person instruction resumes.

Previously, the School District of Palm Beach County's planned a staggered approach by grade level or program without parents having a choice.

School Board member Dr. Debra Robinson was the only dissenting vote at Wednesday's meeting.

The school year is currently scheduled to begin in Palm Beach County on Monday, Aug. 31 with distance learning only for all students.

The school board's plan will once again go back to the state of Florida for approval.

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The Palm Beach County School District's reopening plan says brick-and-mortar school campuses will reopen to students one week after the county joins phase two.

The school year is currently scheduled to begin in Palm Beach County on Monday, Aug. 31 with distance learning only for all students.

Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy's amended plan allows students to "return to brick and mortar in-person instruction when county health conditions permit, to be based on parent choice, without any phasing of re-entry by grade-level or program."

Fennoy said Wednesday that no matter what the board decided, parents will have a choice. He said when students return to campuses they will be required to wear face coverings at schools and on the buses. Plexiglass will also be installed at high-contact areas, such as the front offices of schools.

The superintendent said school leaders will look at how other schools in other parts of the state and country are conducting in-person teaching to help with their plan.

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School board member Marcia Andrews said Wednesday she thought the school district's reopening plan was in the process to get approved. Andrews said she found out from the superintendent "that we are really in trouble with our plan, and we had to make these changes."

The board heard about 40 minutes of public comments from residents and teachers concerned about returning to campus while coronavirus cases remain high.

Brenda Monse
Palm Beach County teacher Brenda Monse voiced her concerns to the school board during a meeting Aug. 12, 2020 about returning to in-person teaching while coronavirus cases are still high.

Palm Beach County teacher Brenda Monse, 61, who has an autoimmune disease, said Wednesday she will take a leave of absence without pay and health insurance if in-person teaching resumes.

"I love my job teaching children, and I care about their future. I put my heart and soul into my job for the past 22 years in the state of Florida. However, to my dismay, Palm Beach County is leaving me and other compromised teachers no choice to take a leave of absence without pay and without health insurance," Monse said.

Other speakers said they are concerned about the ventilation at schools and the mandating of wearing masks at schools by teachers and students.

Parents and students also stood outside the Palm Beach County District headquarters with signs to express their views on opening schools.

Right now, under phase one, teachers can choose to teach virtually from their classroom or remotely. Once brick-and-mortar instruction begins, will teachers still get to choose? That is expected to be addressed at next week's school board meeting.