The St. Johns County School District is ending students' ability to move between virtual and in-class instruction starting in January.
The district will continue to give students an option to attend school in person or virtually, but in a Monday blog post, Superintendent Tim Forson said families who chose the in-person option will need to continue with it through the end of the school year.
That's after the Sunday, Dec. 6, deadline parents had been given to choose their student's learning platform for the second semester. The district's selection form read, in part: "This choice is a commitment for the remainder of the school year."
"It has become increasingly apparent that students are best served in the school building with face-to-face instruction. However, we respect that some students are being served in a distance learning format due to individual circumstances and may continue to utilize this option," Forson wrote.
He said during the first half of the school year, students were negatively affected by moving from one instructional model to another.
"For this reason, we are asking that all students remain in the instructional option they have selected through the end of the school year," he wrote.
The deadline and Forson's announcement follow Gov. Ron DeSantis' and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran's emphasizing the importance of in-person learning last week.
While a new order by Corcoran keeps the online option available and provides protections for school district funding, the governor stressed in-person learning is preferable.
“The data and the evidence is overwhelmingly clear, virtual learning is just not the same as being in person,” said DeSantis, who has argued that schools are safe amid the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the St. Johns School District's Monday numbers show that 95 of its students are currently infected with COVID-19 and 1,386 are quarantined. Among staff, 33 have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 69 are quarantined.
The district employs 5,298 people and serves 44,175 students.
Early Dismissal Changes Start January 26, 2021
Forson also announced after the first semester is completed on January 25, 2021, Wednesday early dismissal will be returning to a one-hour early release instead of the current two-hour early release.
Mandatory Face-To-Face Testing
Students who chose to continue with virtual learning will still have to head back to school for some exams, according to Forson.
"Several important assessments are administered that require face-to face testing. This will require distance learning students to attend the school to complete these exams," he wrote.