LCS board meeting: What’s to come for Fall 2020

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 11:36 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 9:03 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Leon County School Board said Tuesday afternoon the upcoming school year will be constantly changing. The board agreed to have the start of school fall on August 19. However, if coronavirus cases continue to spike, the board said it or health officials can push that date back or go completely virtual if need be.

And that is just one of the many things that are changing.

The almost four hour meeting included a debate on the calendar year, which raised the question, ‘Do teachers want to return?' and discussed how the public really feels about what the school year will look like with only a month until it begins.

About an hour into the meeting, tensions started to rise. After 137 public comments were submitted, each a page or longer, there was debate over whether or not they should be read.

Dee Dee Rasmussen, a member of the board, shares that to read all of the comments out loud, would take close to 3 hours. While the board decided to not read the comments and take time from the meeting, she said, “We don’t want you to feel like your comment is not important.”

Superintendent Rocky Hanna followed up by saying, “We hear you...I don’t want to put my family in harms way and we are caught in a horrible position, but I believe though we will get it right...and we are going to do the very best we can to protect our students and families.”

Of those who submitted comments, only 10 wanted to return, 7 did not have an opinion, and the remainder all wanted digital learning. The Leon County Teachers Association created its own survey. It had roughly 500 of members weigh in, with the majority saying they do not feel comfortable teaching on site.

And that is when the debate heightened. The board wanted to hear from all teachers, not just the union, and asked that the superintendent create a survey for all 2,300 teachers in the district. However, Superintendent Rocky Hanna wanted to put it on the principals to gather the data.

Hanna shares, “LCTA had a seat on the task force and I didn’t hear one time where their representative said many many members of ours don’t feel good.”

Rasmussen responded, “What they might have said three weeks ago might be different today...we have to ask them we have to know what the workforce might look like.”

That is when Deanna McAllister, who represented teachers at the meeting, chimed in.

“The dialogue that we shared is not we do not want to return, but we are nervous, how are you going to make us feel more comfortable?” McAllister said. “What happens if we are sent home?”

The superintendent agreed to create a teachers survey, which will be sent to all teachers in the district. He then reviewed results from parents. More than 23,000 sent in their intentions. 60% want their child to return to the classroom, while 40% want to remain online.

Of the roughly 9,000 who want to do digital academy, around 200 said they need help with internet connectivity.

In Title 1 schools, the breakdown is 50-50. In Non-Title 1 schools, the majority of students and families want to return to the classroom.

The board agreed that things like the school calendar, which is now set to be 178 days, is in flux. Rosanne Woods, Chair of the Board, said they are all working to keep schools open and make their staff and students feel safe.

“I think every teacher wants to come back and teach and every student, just about wants to come back and learn,” Woods said. “What we have to focus on as a board and as a school system is what is going to be a safe environment for people to learn and go to school in.”

Chromebooks are expected to arrive in early August. So far, according to the board, 25 LCS employees and student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent Hanna said he will be conducting a Facebook Live on Wednesday to read all 137 public comments that could not be read aloud at Tuesday’s board meeting.

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