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Palm Beach County school board members discuss delaying start of school year

Board members suggest starting school year in September, instead of Aug. 10
Posted at 1:22 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 18:54:16-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Should the start of the school year be delayed in Palm Beach County because of concerns over the coronavirus?

That's what school board members discussed on Wednesday afternoon during a virtual meeting.

Board member Dr. Debra Robinson presented the idea of delaying the start of the 2020/21 school year, which is slated to begin on Monday, Aug. 10.

"We need to see the numbers going down and not have a foreseeable blip up," Robinson said, referring to the number of COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County. "We need to be flexible in determining when school will open."

Dr. Robinson did not specify when she would like the start of the school year delayed until. However, school board member Karen Brill suggested starting the school year after Labor Day in September.

"I'd like to us to consider that a permanent change," Brill said.

Board member Barbara McQuinn said that while she supports the school year starting on Aug. 10, she also suggested staggering the start date for students and teachers, and also giving parents the option to continue distance learning from home if they feel more comfortable doing that.

"Maybe we can stagger the start," said McQuinn. "So that those employees could say, I would rather start mid to late September. Let me do that and I'll take a pay gap."

Board members did not vote on delaying the start of the school year on Wednesday, but agreed to discuss it further at future meetings.

The School District of Palm Beach County is looking at three education options for when students return: full-time classroom instruction, full-time distance learning, or a hybrid model that would involve students being in the classroom two days a week and at home for distance learning the other three days a week.

At Wednesday's virtual school board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy said more than 66,000 parents and guardians responded to a school district survey asking them which of the three learning models they prefer.

"Right now, a district data team is analyzing all those results," Dr. Fennoy told board members. "Generally, the respondents were fairly evenly split in their back to school preferences when asked about returning to school full-time, continuing distance learning full-time, or some form of a blended model."

Officials are expected to make a final decision on the format of the 2020/21 school year on July 15.