BY EMMA HUERTA
In a press conference on March 31, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Robert Runcie officially announced that county schools will remain closed until May 1. This announcement comes in light of the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, especially throughout Florida.
Originally, BCPS had announced on March 12 that solely after-school activities would be canceled as of March 16, the Monday of the final week of the third quarter. An update to this statement revealed that school would be canceled entirely that week, with a week of spring break following and learning tentatively restarting on Monday, March 30.
Later, on March 17, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated that all schools in the state would be closed until April 15 at the earliest. This announcement additionally shared that statewide assessments—also known as the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA)—as well as school grades would be canceled for the 2019-2020 school year.
The announcement was overridden, but by a federal regulation this time. On March 30, President Donald Trump ordered for “social distancing” protocols—which prohibit mass gatherings of people, like in schools—to continue until at least April 30. In response, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) and DeSantis began recommending school districts to close until May 1.
“There is a clear lack of communication between the state and county.”
“It’s evident to me that there is a clear lack of communication between the state and county, where one day we are asked to follow certain guidelines and the next day they’re saying something that contradicts what they’ve instructed us to [do] previously,” junior Emmie Leal said.
This most recent update, along with an FDOE recommendation for Broward County, is what contributed to Runcie’s call for Broward’s school closures.
“We are awaiting further guidance from them on what that means and should that be extended …We would love to see circumstances improve but I think we have to hope for the best and plan for the worst,” Runcie said in an emergency school board meeting.
Although physical classes at BCPS campuses are canceled, distance e-learning via BCPS Single Sign-On (SSO) has been in place since March 30, continuing instruction like the district originally intended. According to the superintendent, this form of instruction will most likely continue until the end of the school year.
“I would tell this board and the public that our plan is to prepare for continuing the current education model, the distance learning that we have, throughout the remainder of this school year,” Runcie said.
“Although it’s nice being able to sleep in a bit, I’d rather be back in the classroom with my friends.”
Teachers were instructed to use Canvas—the district’s main online learning platform—and Microsoft Teams—a conference-style communication service—to connect with students and adjust to the new system. The last days of the third quarter were from Monday, March 30 to Wednesday, April 1, with April 2 and 3 left for teachers to finalize grades.
“Online learning is definitely possible—there [are] Broward Virtual and online classes at college—but online learning takes out a huge fundamental piece of education,” English teacher Briana Bullard said. “[It’s] the verbal face-to-face interactions that make learning fun and captivating.”
On that Monday, however, BCPS students faced many roadblocks when attempting to log onto Canvas. These issues were accredited to the sudden influx of students using the site.
“It was very confusing since I have never had an online class before, but slowly I am starting to get used to the change,” junior Ryan Smith said. “Although it’s nice being able to sleep in a bit, I’d rather be back in the classroom with my friends.”
Photo by The Lariat Photography