Broward County Public Schools students and teachers have been transitioning to an entirely online system of education. During the past week, about 99 percent of all instructional staff published lessons and delivered services online using the Canvas learning management system. About 96 percent of students were involved in online learning.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said that average attendance has been about 88 percent, but he wants all students to be involved. District staff are focused on reaching out and connecting with those students who have not engaged or are not participating regularly so it can be determined who to remove challenges or barriers. The goal is to make sure no child is left out of the education process.
Efforts are being made to issue laptops to any student who needs one. So far about 90,000 laptops have been issued. “We have provided access to more affordable internet services through Comcast Essentials free for the first 60 days and then at $9.95/month. We are negotiating with AT&T and will soon announce their offer of $5-$10/month for internet access. Finally, we are also working on additional options for economically impacted families that we hope to announce in a couple weeks,” said Runcie.
Another problem is food insecurity “Every day we have seen an increase in the number of meals served as we opened four more sites for a total of 51 feeding sites. We served over 130,000 meals this week, up from 90,000 last week,” said Runcie. “I want to thank our Food & Nutrition Services staff for their work and showing up every day to do this important service for our community.”
Runcie said he wants feedback from teachers on what is working well and what needs to be improved to improve the effectiveness of distance learning. “I cannot thank our education professionals enough for their commitment and determination to do whatever it takes to ensure that our children continue to learn and grow. I ask our families and community to be patient and give our teacher some grace and time to transition to this new world of distance learning,” said Runcie.
Another goal is to have a positive graduation experience for seniors even if it cannot be done in the traditional way. “I asked staff to research alternative graduation methods as we need to be proactive in case, we are not able to have traditional graduations due to the pandemic. I am a big proponent of student voice. So, we have been holding discussions with a group representing two student representatives from each high school to work on alternative options that they will present to me next week for consideration,” said Runcie.
Another concern is the mental health situation of people involved in public schools. The district’s Mental Health Leadership Team is committed to continuing to provide services to parents and children, remotely. Parents can call their child’s school to request assistance or the district’s Mental Health Hotline at 754-321-HELP. A mental health professional will respond to requests in a timely manner.
“I saw a national poll that almost half of the country is negatively impacted mentally by this pandemic and the stay-at-home situation. The level of stress, anxiety, worry and fear is real and growing. You’re not alone. We are all in this together and we will help each other get through this crisis,” said Runcie.
He encouraged everyone to focus on their own wellness and to talk walks, exercise and connect with friends virtually.