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Palm Beach County school leaders discuss district's reopening guidelines

'We will begin with a distance learning mode,' Dr. Donald Fennoy says
Dr. Donald Fennoy in video welcoming students back to school
Posted at 10:08 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 23:59:03-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.  — Palm Beach County's superintendent met with county leaders Monday as students are set to begin a challenging and unique school year.

"I want you to know the district is very busy preparing for your highly anticipated return to our campuses," said Dr. Donald Fennoy in a new video sent home to students and parents. "We will begin with a distance-learning mode of instruction because of the evolving pandemic."

Fennoy met with the county administrator and other leaders, laying out the School District of Palm Beach County's reopening guidelines and discussed more details about how students will start returning to classrooms once the county moves to Phase Two.

Kimberly Johnson, a mother of two, supports heading back into the classroom.

"For my family, I am comfortable sending my children back to school with safety protocols in place," Johnson said.

Johnson put her youngest son into private school this year for his social and mental well-being, but her daughter is set to return to the district.

"I just feel it's important for her to be taught by teachers," Johnson said. "It's important for her to have a social life outside of being at her house."

Gordan Longhofer has been a teacher for 35 years. He teaches math at Pahokee Middle School and is also the vice president of the Classroom Teachers Association, which is the teachers union in Palm Beach County. Longhofer agrees children learn best in a classroom but said many teachers are concerned about returning for in-person instruction too soon.

"We know children learn best when they can actually interact with people one-on-one or in a classroom setting, so a return is absolutely desired, but a return where we know students and teachers are going to be safe, regardless of the circumstances of the pandemic," Longhofer said.

The district said no decision was made Monday about reopening. The county and health department are set to provide an update on the coronavirus and any progress toward Phase Two at Tuesday's meeting of commissioners.