Palm Beach County wants state to continue funding for distance learning

School board members concerned what will happen if option for distance learning goes away
Posted at 8:05 AM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 09:26:16-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Many Palm Beach County parents are concerned as rumors swirl about the future of distance learning.

Florida's executive order that provides funding for distance learning students in the current form will expire at the end of 2020.

The State Board of Education will meet Wednesday. It's not known at this time whether the issue will be addressed by the board.

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy said all school district superintendents will be talking to the education commissioner on Thursday.

Palm Beach County School Board members talked about the issue on Tuesday, expressing the importance of keeping distance learning in place. They said they want the state to know where they stand in making sure parents continue to have an option into 2021 for how their children learn, whether it be in person or virtual.

"When we started on this journey, the state level administration wanted parents to have a choice," Fennoy said Friday in an interview with WPTV. "Well, they are still choosing and I would hate to eliminate their choice. So we're going to really advocate for our parents in Palm Beach County to have the choice to be in the building or not."

Fennoy said the executive order expires on Dec. 31, "so sometime in the next two months, we have to hear something so we can plan accordingly."

He also said he sent a joint letter to the state education commissioner, along with the superintendents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, about the importance of maintaining distance learning in South Florida.

Board members also talked about this being a top priority.

Dr. Debra Robinson said she wants the superintendent to lay the groundwork for a call to action if that should become necessary, to rally the community to speak with one voice.

"What I'm saying is it should be our decision," she said.

Board member Erica Whitfield echoed the sentiment.

"I really do think we are going to get to a place where families are not going to send their children back to us if we don't have this as an option, and we are already struggling with finding these children and keeping them in schools," Whitfield said. "We are 7,000 students down and I think that number is going to go up."

Whitfield said a "collective voice" is needed within the school district.

"We have to be able to offer this distance-learning option, and if we don't, I'm very concerned of what that means for our schools," she said.