Amid the wave of coronavirus infections, Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) said Wednesday that at least 1,400 students have enrolled in optional virtual learning ahead of the August 10th start to the new school year.
The online learning program, Duval Virtual Instruction Academy, will be different than last year’s: Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can enroll in “asynchronous” instruction, meaning students work at their own pace, while students in kindergarten through 5th grade also have the option to enroll in “synchronous” instruction, where students learn together following a daily schedule.
Duval HomeRoom, a virtual option that was available last school year due to an emergency order, is no longer being offered, as that order has expired.
In a district of more than 127,000 students, those enrolling in at-home school are a distinct minority. But concern over the safety of kids in schools is more widespread.
“Even though we know that many of our kids do okay with the COVID-19 infection, I don’t want my kid or anyone else’s kid to be hospitalized or end up with long COVID symptoms,” said Duval County parent Matt Hartley, who organized a protest outside DCPS headquarters last week to support mask requirements in the classroom.
DCPS last week changed its guidance on face masks from “optional” to “strongly recommended,” but not required.
“We will continue to consult with local and state officials to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the community and make modifications to administrative processes when required and permitted to do so,” said DCPS Superintendent Diana L. Greene.
Children are less likely to contract and spread the coronavirus and are less likely to get seriously ill if they are exposed, but more than 4 million children have contracted the virus nationwide, and 349 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Florida last month stopped reporting child hospitalizations due to COVID, but Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville has several children in the intensive care unit this week, according to the Baptist Medical CEO Michael Mayo.
Enrollment in Duval Virtual Instruction Academy is open until August 9. While DCPS offers its own virtual learning program, students in other counties are eligible for Florida Virtual School.
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