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Palm Beach County teachers will have more time to prepare for distance learning, education officials say

School board reaches consensus to start 2020-21 academic year with online-only classes
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Posted at 2:18 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 17:47:06-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County released new details on Thursday about what the 2020-21 academic school year may look like after school board members reached a consensus to begin the year with online-only classes.

RELATED: Palm Beach County likely to start school year with online-only learning

A spokesperson for the district said that, unlike in March when teachers only had days to prepare for a switch to distance learning, the school district has had all summer to prepare for the possibility of virtual teaching.

Justin Katz, the president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, said the district will give teachers professional development training over the coming weeks to help them be better equipped to teach over the computer.

"There's going to be a very rigid set of rules and working conditions that teachers will have to adhere to or face reprimand because that's what we need to do to perform uniform high quality education," Katz said.

In addition, the school district will distribute 82,000 more laptops to students and make WiFi more readily available throughout the district, a spokesperson said.

At Wednesday's school board meeting, board members reached a consensus to start the 2020-21 academic year, which is slated to begin on Monday, Aug. 10, with online-only classes.

A final vote will take place on July 15.

Board members on Wednesday also suggested possibly of having teachers go into their classrooms several days a week to use their SMART Board and materials to teach children at home.

That suggestion, too, will be voted on next Wednesday.

Palm Beach County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy will make a recommendation on the best option on the format of the 2020-21 academic year. The Palm Beach County School Board will then vote and submit their plan to the Florida Department of Education for final approval.

Last week, the state DOE issued an order requiring public school districts to open brick and mortar schools five days a week.

However, Fennoy said the School District of Palm Beach County has some flexibility with this, as the district takes recommendations and advice from health leaders.

Fennoy released this statement to WPTV earlier this week:

"The Executive Order from the Florida Department of Education provides the District with the flexibility to begin the 2020-21 school year in accordance with recommendations from health officials that are based on the status of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, and without the fear of losing FTE funding as we make decisions based on keeping our students and staff safe during this pandemic."

Earlier on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he wants schools to reopen nationwide and threatened to cut federal funding if they don't reopen.