WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Just days before the new school year begins in Palm Beach County, school district officials are helping students and parents navigate these challenging and unprecedented times.
"This will not be a typical year," said Dr. Donald Fennoy, the Superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County, during a news conference on Tuesday morning.
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Palm Beach County is set to start school on Monday, Aug. 31 with distance learning for all students. It's the last school district in our viewing area to begin the 2020-21 academic year.
"Please know, the school board and I are committed to reopening our campuses as soon as it is safe to do so," Fennoy said.
During Tuesday's news conference, district leaders said distance learning will be greatly improved, with each student's day following a typical bell schedule and teachers required to do live lessons every day.
Under the school district's reopening plan, "once Palm Beach County moves from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of recovery, students in early learning programs can physically return to District-operated schools if their parents so choose."
That means once brick-and-mortar schools reopen, parents can choose whether to send their students back or continue to keep them at home.
Based on a parent survey, about 20% of students plan to stay in distance learning when brick-and-mortar schools eventually reopen. About 37% plan to come back to campus, and 39% are unsure.
District officials said it's very important that parents make a final decision on whether to send their children back to help administrators plan for the return to the classroom.
"There are a number of ways that schools are working to problem solve, where there would potentially be fewer kids in a classroom," said Deputy Superintendent Keith Oswald. "One, they would use other ancillary space such as music rooms, art rooms. There's other rooms throughout a campus that have a larger square footage than a particular classroom."
Oswald added that over the next week, the school district will ask parents to finalize their choice about sending their children back to brick-and-mortar schools.
A district spokesperson said that if you choose to stay in distance learning, you can move to in-classroom instruction later in the school year, but you cannot go back and forth between distance and in-classroom learning from one week to the next.
Officials also announced on Tuesday that the school district's police department now has enough officers to staff every school campus without relying on outside law enforcement agencies for support.
Families should have received an email from the district with a full guide to the new school year. To read it, click here.
If you have questions about the new school year in Palm Beach County, you can now call a hotline to get them answered.
The district has set up an information hotline to answer questions about the start of the 2020-21 school year.
The number to call is 561-969-5840.
During the weeks of Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, the hotline will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Representatives will be available to answer questions in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. They can answer frequently asked questions about registering for school, school meals, and improvements to distance learning. Callers can also call 561-684-5100 to leave a message for a future return call from a representative.
In addition, for technical questions you can call the IT Service Desk at 561-242-4100 Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.