Yesterday, Thursday, April 9, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, held a media conference along with his education honcho, Richard Corcoran, to spin how well Florida has handled school closings and crisis schooling, which is also known as distance learning.
Invited guests included the Superintendent of Pinellas County, a principal and a teacher from that district, and other teachers.
The presser was a media relations promo. Its theme was how well Florida is doing with its move to online learning for the entire population of school children. When Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) tuned in, they were promoting the expansion of Florida Virtual School (FLVS).
GOT is reflecting on Florida Virtual in other posts. For now, he will note the positive push of the presser. FLVS has expanded capacity. In early May, it will be able to accommodate millions of school children … as a means of completing their school year. For free! It won’t cost a thing! (One assumes they mean that FLVS will not try to scoop FTE dollars out of district budgets at this late time in the school year.)
FLVS has teachers standing by ready to determine where each child is at in the curriculum and able to drop them into their course sequence at the right spot.
Implied, but not being said, is that you parents don’t have to put up with the crappy efforts by your public schools to provide ‘distance learning’ with very short notice. (GOT is reporting and interpreting, but definitely not agreeing, with this thought.)
More important, something was said that has been overlooked. Parents choosing to put their children into FLVS may always return their enrollment to their local school district for the 2020-2021 school year.
Let that sink in. Parents enrolling their children in FLVS to finish this year will remain enrolled in FLVS UNLESS they take action over the summer to re-enroll their children in the local school that they prefer.
However, Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is the best. GOT does not suspect a deep, dark conspiracy in the expansion of FLVS. Really, do you think DeSantis and Corcoran are that smart?
But they have put in place a means of making brick-and-mortar schools seem unnecessary. We must be vigilant in the months ahead.
Next up, the superintendent for Pinellas County, who must have been a cheerleader in his high school days because he played the role very well. He claimed that in the first week of ‘distance learning,’ Pinellas had a 97% attendance rate and would soon have that over 99%. Corcoran smiled and gave praise.
He reported that everything was running smoothly, a report that defied everything every actual Florida teacher was experiencing and dealing with. A report that insulted every parent trying to manage multiple children in different schools and finding that the platforms were overwhelmed.
But backup was at hand: a principal and teachers who knew what they were there to do.
The Imperius Curse was an invention of J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series. But GOT can’t help wondering if it’s real after watching the principal and teachers saying how wonderful it all is. Maybe they’ve been cursed by the FLDOE or the commissioner into saying things that everyone knows are not true.
For the record, students have trouble logging on and accessing their assignments. The internet was not built for this. Every platform, whether Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Classroom, and on and on, has struggled to stay up given the unprecedented demands upon their infrastructure.
Emails take hours to arrive in teachers’ accounts. Students upload a PDF or picture of their work, they receive a message that the upload was successful, but teachers don’t see it on their end.
Engagement is far below 97% as every teacher in Florida knows. It’s not happening at that rate.
But the real jaw-dropper was saved for the end, when the presentation was over, the script was read, but the governor took questions.
He declared that schools would soon be ready to reopen, but on a county-by-county basis.
Oh, Ron! What personality defect drives you to become the laughingstock of the nation?
He reasoned that no one under 25 has died from the coranavirus. George Santayana once said that no good deed goes unpunished. In these days of social media, GOT will amend that to say that no stupid utterance of a politician will go unpunished.
Reaction was swift and quick. One example here and another here. These are not the only ones. Florida has news for you, Governor. Parents are not sending their children back to school before August. Teachers, administrators, and supporting personnel are not going back either.
To do so risks a new wave of contagion washing across the state.
Shame on you, Ron DeSantis, for suggesting it.