TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Department of Education has released its guidelines on how to help support students, families, educators and essential workers as the state moves forward with reopening the economy.
The Florida Council of 100 commissioned a recent survey that showed nearly two-thirds of employed parents of minor children in the state say that school closures and/or lack of childcare have affected their ability to perform their jobs.
According to the Florida Department of Education presentation, 41% said their ability to perform their job responsibilities adequately was somewhat hurt. While 23% said their ability was greatly hurt.
"Our number one goal is to ensure the safety and security of students and to provide a great education," said Governor Ron DeSantis, according to the presentation.
The Florida Department of Education is now working toward several goals in the rebound and recovery process, including preparing Florida schools, public school prekindergarten (VPK) and afterschool programs to reopen successfully and safely, according to the FDOE.
However, a clear timeline has not yet been established for a reopening of schools and those programs across the state.
The Florida Department of Education is also focused on eliminating achievement gaps for kids. The state said the crisis has likely exacerbated those gaps. State leaders will also be monitoring the successes and needs of prekindergarten students.
For early learning, the Florida Department of Education is looking to expand high-quality providers, especially in high-need areas. They are also planning for an increased need for child care given the hits to the Florida economy.
There will also be an emphasis on the state offering support to high-quality childcare providers to reopen to help infants, toddlers and special needs students.
The state is also looking to provide additional options for summer Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education programs and develop a summer program for incoming kindergarteners.
In Pinellas County, schools are already announcing Summer Bridge Program plans.
When Florida hits the summer months, the Florida Department of Education plans to work on mapping local childcare capacity to meet the need for families.
Another critical aspect of the FDOE's recovery timeline from now until June is expanding current early learning programs to serve children of first responders and health care workers. Down the line, the focus could also extend to other families with other kinds of essential workers.
According to the state's plan, there will also be continued support for teachers to increase their skills, competencies and educational attainment, according to the Florida DOE.