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Polk County delays start of the school year until at least August 24 because of COVID-19

Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Byrd said she doesn't feel it's safe to physically reopen schools yet.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Polk County Public Schools announced Tuesday that it will delay the start of the school year until at least Aug. 24 because of the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases in the area.

Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said she believes it's necessary to delay the start of the school year "because it isn't safe to physically reopen schools at this time," the district said in a release. The school year was scheduled to begin Aug. 10.

“We are trending upward with the rise of COVID-19 cases, not only in the state but right here in Polk County,” Byrd said. “At this time, I do not feel it is safe to physically reopen schools on Aug. 10. We need to delay the opening of school at least until Aug. 24. We will continue to monitor the situation with health officials and, if the spread of the virus remains high, we can further delay the physical reopening of our brick-and-mortar schools if necessary.”

Teachers will begin professional development and training on Aug. 17.

The school board will vote Tuesday night to adjust the school year calendar accordingly.

Byrd called to delay to reopening of schools during a meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the district's reopening plans.

School board members then briefly discussed the pros and cons of delaying the start date. Board member Sarah Fortney suggested starting on the 10th through the e-learning model while the majority of the board thought the teachers needed more preparation time and training before adopting the e-school model. 

School leaders then detailed their reopening plan, which offers parents three options:

1) Traditional in-person learning

The 2020-2021 brick and mortar model will include pre-screening checks such as temperature checks and monitoring symptoms. 

Face coverings will be mandatory for teachers and students, and social distancing measures will be enforced.

2) E-learning

This model will be very different than the last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year. Parents must make a quarterly commitment to this choice.

This model will mirror in-person learning with a structured style including attendance, grades and routines.

3) Polk Virtual School

This is a long-standing model with little change from years past. This choice allows flexibility in completing assignments and meeting goals. This choice requires a semester commitment. 

You can view the reopening plan for Polk County Public Schools here

RELATED: Teachers unions demand Florida leaders listen to health officials and create safe school reopening plan

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