| The Daytona Beach News-Journal
The Volusia County School Board is seeking permission from the state to get full funding for students who tune into classes from home during the coronavirus pandemic, and for an exemption from high-stakes testing in the spring.
The state mandated that all schools open to provide in-person education by the end of August, but that doesn’t mean things will bounce back to normal. The waivers are an attempt to ensure the district’s funding and status isn’t disrupted as it tries to provide public education as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.
“Crisis management does not provide an opportunity for school boards to make sound future plans,” the draft letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran reads. “In this regard, we implore you both to provide clear and consistent guidance for the operation of public schools this year.”
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The first waiver is about protecting funding for the district — not necessarily about limiting the number of students in a class at a time. As part of the Volusia County school district’s reopening plan families had the opportunity to choose the Volusia Live learning option, which will allow them to watch live-streamed classroom lessons from home on a regular school day schedule.
But the option leaves room for some ambiguity about whether students who tune in from home are virtual students or traditional students, which typically receive different levels of funding from the state. The waiver asks that the state commit to funding them as full-time students for the entire school year, not just the fall semester, and let those students count toward class size calculations.
[READ MORE: Volusia teachers back in schools despite unclear coronavirus plans]
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The second request is about testing in the spring — not that testing be canceled again, but that the results of that testing not be used to calculate district or school grades. All districts are anticipating yet-unmeasured academic “slide” as a result of the forced distance learning at the end of the last year and the new formats for learning this year. Additionally, the district argues in its letter, the data from testing this year should be used as a baseline measurement for when the state switches to its new academic standards and testing in the next year.
“No one is able to predict with any certainty what the DOE is likely to do in January and certainly into next year,” the district’s general counsel Kevin Pendley said.
Previously, the School Board discussed seeking even more waivers from the state: one exempting them from conducting safety drills, one for a part of teacher’s evaluations, and even one seeking the ability to begin the school year with online only classes. But the board only voted on two waivers at its Tuesday meeting.
The School Board approved two waivers, which will be sent to the state for approval. School starts in Volusia County on Aug. 31.