WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County will enter Phase Two of Florida's reopening plan on Sept. 8, and brick-and-mortar schools will reopen "at some point" between Sept. 14 and 21, Mayor Dave Kerner announced on Friday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially signed an executive order on Friday to move Palm Beach County into Phase Two.
During a news conference, Kerner said that by law, under a reopening plan approved by the Palm Beach County School Board and Florida Department of Education, the school district is required to reopen brick-and-mortar schools on Monday, Sept. 14.
Kerner said he met days ago with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy, School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri, and other officials about the operational readiness of the School District of Palm Beach County for when brick-and-mortar schools eventually reopen.
"They indicated at that time that they would require more time," Kerner said. "Specifically, Dr. Fennoy indicated that September 21st would be the most ideal date for students to return to the school."
Kerner said he took that recommendation and made a personal request to DeSantis for the governor to push back the reopening of brick-and-mortar schools to Monday, Sept. 21.
"I have heard from the governor's office today, just recently, that they are willing to extend the opening date to September 21st, 2020 to open brick-and-mortar schools," Kerner said.
The mayor said he informed the Palm Beach County School Board that they now have the option to delay the reopening of brick-and-mortar schools.
"What they do with that new discretion and option is up to them," Kerner said. "Right now, parents in this county need to know that at some point between September 14th and September 21st, brick-and-mortar schools will open in Palm Beach County."
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The School District of Palm Beach County said on Thursday that no official date has been set for the return to brick-and-mortar schools.
The school district tweeted around 8 p.m.:
"The District will reopen campuses to in-person instruction approximately 5 school days after @pbcgov officially enters Phase 2. We are awaiting confirmation of that date. The District will share this information as soon as we have an official 'reopening of campuses' date."
The District will reopen campuses to in-person instruction approximately 5 school days after @pbcgov officially enters Phase 2. We are awaiting confirmation of that date. The District will share this information as soon as we have an official 'reopening of campuses' date.— PBCSD (@pbcsd) September 3, 2020
The school district is urging parents to let them know as soon as possible if your child will be returning to in-classroom instruction once brick-and-mortar schools reopen, or if they'll continue distance learning at home.
To make your choice, click here.
A school district spokeswoman said that once schools reopen, if your child is in distance learning but then eventually wants to return to in-classroom instruction, it will take one week to process that request.
If, however, you want to go from in-classroom instruction back to distance learning, that transition can happen overnight.
According to school officials, if there is not enough room in a classroom when students return, there will be overflow spaces like a cafeteria or media center. Students will watch their live lessons on their Chromebook from those overflow locations.
In the first increment of Palm Beach County's Phase Two reopening plan, which starts on Sept. 8, entertainment venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys, escape rooms, playhouses, skating and trampoline centers, and other venues will be allowed to reopen with reduced capacity.
Restaurants will continue operating at 50% indoor capacity and full capacity outdoors.
Retail stores, gyms and fitness centers, museums and libraries, and certain personal services establishments will be allowed to operate at full capacity.
In a later increment, entertainment venues like auditoriums, bingo parlors, comedy clubs, and concert houses will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.
Then, movie theaters, bowling alleys, escape rooms, playhouses, skating and trampoline centers, and other entertainment venues will be allowed to expand their capacity.
In the final phase of the plan, all of the businesses listed above will be allowed to operate at full capacity. In addition, bars, arcades, billiard halls, hookah, cigar and other smoking bars and lounges, nightclubs, establishments offering adult entertainment and strip clubs will be allowed to reopen with reduced capacity.
County health director Dr. Alina Alonso said on Friday that Palm Beach County's daily lab positivity rate for COVID-19 is on a "steady downward trend" and has been at 5% since Aug. 17, which is helping health officials do more effective contact tracing.
"That makes all the difference in the world. That means our viral load in the community is going down," Alonso said. "The virus is not gone. The virus has not disappeared."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 72,762 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,160 coronavirus-related deaths in Palm Beach County.