WELLINGTON, Fla. — Thousands of parents and students at several charter schools in Palm Beach County are now left scrambling.
They just received word that classrooms will not reopen, and the only option for the beginning of the school year is virtual learning.
"I'm devastated, and it's been less than 24 hours and I still don't know what I'm going to do," parent Alexis DeLuca said.
DeLuca is now looking into a plan for her twin daughters, who were set to start first grade at Renaissance Charter School at Palms West in Royal Palm Beach.
"They really had done a lot to get this ready to where I felt entirely comfortable with returning my children to a classroom from day one of the school year," DeLuca said.
Being working parents, DeLuca and her husband turned to the charter school option after the School District of Palm Beach County agreed to begin the year with virtual learning only.
Charter Schools USA, which oversees seven charter schools in Palm Beach County and two in St. Lucie County, was giving parents three options, including in-classroom instruction.
"I looked into the school," DeLuca said. "It was close to my home. It hit a lot of the marks I was looking for, so we enrolled."
But Thursday, DeLuca received a letter from the CEO, changing course and now only offering a full mobile classroom experience.
"In Palm Beach, along with Broward and Dade, we decided that we need to start only in a mobile environment based on the high COVID rates still in that market," CEO Jon Hage said.
Hage said the schools will be using new technology to help bring the students into the classroom for everyone's safety. He said it wasn't an easy decision and feels for working parents.
"We're all crossing our fingers together and if COVID data continues to decline, when ready and safe, we will reopen classes," Hage said. "But I will say this: we won't do that overnight. We'll do that carefully."
The two locations in St Lucie County will still open up for students, while providing parents with two virtual options because cases are not as high there.
DeLuca said she's now looking into a private school option.
Eddie Ruiz, the Florida state director for Charter Schools USA, released this statement to WPTV:
"We continue to monitor the situation with COVID every day and we have been preparing ever since the spring for all options to provide what is best for students. We have developed three flexible models that include in-person, fully-mobile classroom and a combination of in-person and mobile learning. As educators, we have a moral responsibility to provide each child a high quality education. In this unique time, we have to protect students from irreparable harm caused by the interruption of their education due to this crisis. We are closely monitoring federal, state and local health directives to determine the best decision for our students, and faculty. We have been listening to our parents, working with our team of dedicated educators as well as our governing boards to determine the best, appropriate, safe, decision for our schools. We are preparing our facilities, and providing appropriate health accommodations consistent with CDC guidelines. We will not compromise the health or safety of our students or staff. If it is determined it is safe to return to the classroom when school opens, we are ready. However, we will make the decision to return to a fully mobile classroom if the situation in a specific community warrants that approach. We will make the final decision for each of our schools based on current information. In Palm Beach County, Broward County and Miami-Dade County, we have made the decision to open these schools in a fully mobile classroom experience. In St. Lucie County, we are prepared to offer our parents and students our three options including in-person, in-classroom."