Polk Co. schools looking for input on how to resume class in fall

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — As Governor Ron DeSantis recommends schools fully reopen in August, Polk County school leaders are concluding their own online survey and asking community members what they think.

“We see a strong desire for students to return to some sense of normalcy,” said Michelle Tromley, acting chief academic officer for Polk County Public Schools.

She said more than 30,000 students, parents, employees and other community members have responded.

The survey, which can be found here, closes Friday, June 12.

Among other questions, the survey asks whether the respondent would like classes to resume in-person, online or a combination of both.

“So that hybrid model may look something like 50% of students come to school on Monday and Wednesday. The other 50% on Tuesday and Thursday and then we use Fridays for additional deep cleaning,” said Tromley.

With that model, students would attend class virtually on Friday.

The survey also asks about measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 including social distancing, temperature checks and face coverings.

Michelle Dannison of Lakeland does not think masks should be required.

She is considering homeschooling her 5-year-old son Lucas instead of sending him to kindergarten.

“With increased cleaning and everything like that, I do feel like he would be safe going back,” she said. “The main reason that we’re considering the homeschooling is because of all the things being put in place. I don’t want his first experience in school to be scary.”

Though the governor has issued a recommendation that campuses reopen in August, it is up to the local school districts to decide.

“PCPS is reviewing the information we’ve received from Tallahassee and will announce details for how school will resume locally as soon as possible. We continue to monitor the virus’s spread in Polk County, and we’ve formed a task force that includes district leaders, local healthcare experts, and community members to guide us as we look ahead to next school year,” Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd wrote in a statement.

The administration says parents would have flexibility if they are not comfortable with the final decision.

“We have our Polk virtual school which allows students to participate in 100% online learning. We also learned a lot of lessons in the last quarter about distance learning at our traditional brick and mortar schools,” said Tromley.

The school district is purchasing more electronic devices, according to Tromley.

As for school buses, hand sanitizer is now available on all 639 school buses.

“Our driver and attendants would have masks. Their temperature would be taken before they got on the school bus and they would clean that bus post and pre-trip,” Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Rob Davis said.

Tromley said the community can expect an update on the different approaches to the school year in early July.

To take Polk County’s survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ReturnToSchoolSafety2020.

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