PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Pasco County Schools will not offer mySchool Online, a virtual learning option created during the pandemic, next school year, Superintendent Kurt Browning announced in a YouTube video.
mySchool Online is the remote, eLearning option tethered to a student's physical school. Through this option, Students keep a connection to their school and follow the normal school schedule and bell times from their home device. The district says about 21% of students are currently enrolled in mySchool Online.
"The Florida Department of Education only authorized Florida school systems to offer mySchool Online type options for the 20-21 school year. Current indications are that such programs will not be authorized by the state for the 21-22 school year," said Browning.
Browning said positive cases involving students and staff have decreased dramatically since January, and he added that the district has been "aggressive" in making the vaccine available for staff.
The superintendent said they expect most students to be back in the classroom for in-person learning and that their employees will return to their classrooms or offices.
"I want to make it clear that unless you qualify for an ADA accommodation for the 2021-2022 school year, we expect you to return to your normal work schedule and workplace effective June 1, 2021," Browning said.
Browning said mySchool was always intended as a temporary option and that, despite their best efforts, their data shows many students who opted for mySchool Online are not succeeding academically and would benefit by returning to in-person learning.
The school district will continue to offer Pasco eSchool as it has for years.
Don Peace, president of United School Employees of Pasco, said as we look to return to normal, he would hope this would be a message that would be well-received.
“I think there have been pretty well-documented case studies on kids who are in the online protocol that they’ve been somewhat lacking in their education, that they’ve been a little bit behind in the social and emotional well-being, so I think this is something that could probably be directed at all of those concerns," said Peace.
Last week, ABC Action News shared a poll that found 69% of parents are at least somewhat concerned their kids will face setbacks in school because of the pandemic.
Deanna Fitzpatrick says she has two students in mySchool Online for safety reasons. She explained while the option of going away is frustrating, her kids will go back to school and they'll make it work.
“I’m angry because to make a decision right now, I don’t understand how they could make a decision right now," said Fitzpatrick. "Why is a decision being made now at the end of March? Why can’t a decision be made, say in June, or July for that matter?"
Others were happy to have more notice.
"I think it’s important to do what’s right for your family," said Alicia Willis.
She said she has one first grade student using the online program, and a fifth grade student who returned to in person learning this week.
"My daughter loves staying home. At this point she’s been home longer than she’s been in the brick and mortar building. For her this has become a new normal so I’m hoping and starting to encourage her to get her ready for next year that she will be back brick and mortar," Willis said.
According to the district's website, a definite decision about masks has not been made at this time.
No final decision has been made regarding masks. At this time, the county still has a mask order in place, and that could change in the coming months. However, at this time we cannot say with any certainty whether masks will be required or optional, or some other status.
Parents and guardians can click here for more information.
ABC Action News checked in with surrounding school districts.
Manatee County Schools is taking similar steps as Pasco County Schools.
"We feel like with the trends that are going on in terms of the coronavirus, the vaccinations and again you know the heavy portion of our student population already in schools, that when we open up schools next august that we again will be back to if not normal we’ll be back to something pretty close to it," said Michael Barber, the district's director of communications.
The district said it sent a letter to parents notifying them next year they won’t offer e-learning, an option tied to a home school. However, there will be an option for another online platform, Manatee Virtual.
Barber said about 85% of their students are already back on campus.
"One of the key considerations is the fact that a smaller number of students we have on e-learning the harder it is to provide resources through our regular schools," he said.
Other school districts had not yet finalized plans.