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Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis For Florida’s Vulnerable Students

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Florida Public Media
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The pandemic has been hard on nearly everyone, but it's worse for those who were already at a disadvantage. Without urgent solutions, COVID-19’s toll could be catastrophic for Florida’s most vulnerable students.In Tampa, migrant education advocates are worried about nearly 300 students — children of farmworkers — who “haven’t quite surfaced anywhere” in the last year.

In Tallahassee, Brady Wilson’s hard-won ability to speak in complex sentences devolved to two- or three-word phrases after schools closed last spring. The 18-year-old has Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, which causes developmental delays.

In Fort Lauderdale, a Broward County Public Schools social worker knows she has to “hit the pavement … and knock on those doors” to find the nearly 800 kids who haven’t logged on or shown up for in-person schooling in months.

These are some of Florida’s most vulnerable students, for whom COVID-19 has been not only a profoundly disruptive health crisis but also an educational catastrophe.

Florida Public Media is honored to announce: “Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis For Florida’s Vulnerable Students.”

In this statewide project, journalists explore the high costs of the pandemic for children and young adults who faced some of the greatest obstacles to success in school well before COVID-19 upended public education.

“This uniquely comprehensive look at how the pandemic has exacerbated educational inequity in Florida comes at a critical time,” said Jessica Bakeman, WLRN’s education reporter, who edited the project. “Our series will inform the conversation about solutions to some of our state’s most pressing problems during the Legislature’s first law making session since COVID-19 has transformed the lives of Floridians.

“‘Class of COVID-19’ also assesses the educational damage of the pandemic near the one-year anniversary of widespread school closures.”

The radio-side of the project will kick off with a magazine-style narrative radio program, airing statewide. The series of stories and interactive multimedia content will appear at classofcovid.org.

Later in the month, public television stations around the state will carry an hour-long special featuring news reports and conversations with policymakers

Throughout the month, tune into public affairs programs to hear local voices join the conversation. “The Florida Roundup,” a live statewide show hosted by Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross on Friday afternoons, will feature the journalists behind “Class of COVID-19,” allowing listeners to call in with questions of their own.

'Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis For Florida's Vulnerable Students' WJCT News 89.9 Special

WJCT News 89.9 will air the one-hour radio special on "The Class of COVID-19" on Friday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. It will also be streamed on WJCT.org and in the WJCT app.

'Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis For Florida's Vulnerable Students' Jax PBS Special

WJCT-TV 7.1 will air the one-hour TV special on "The Class of COVID-19" on Monday, February 22 at 9 p.m. on antenna TV channel 7.1, Comcast channels 8 and 440. It will also be streamed on Passport and in the WJCT app. The special will encore on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 5:00 p.m. 

WJCT.org will also be running a portion of many of the stories, starting Friday, Feb. 12.

This story is part of the Florida Public Media series, "Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis For Florida's Vulnerable Students." Find the whole project — and sign up for our limited-run newsletter — at classofcovid.org.

“Class of COVID-19” is being produced through a partnership with the following public media organizations: WLRN (Miami), WGCU (Fort Myers), WFSU (Tallahassee), WUSF (Tampa), WMFE (Orlando) , WUCF (Orlando), WPBT/WXEL (Miami/Boynton Beach), WJCT (Jacksonville), WEDU (Tampa) and WUWF (Pensacola).

The project is supported in part by the Hammer Family Charitable Foundation and the Education Writers Association.