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If remote teaching ends, here are some options if you want your kids to learn outside the classroom during COVID-19

if you want your kids to learn outside the classroom during COVID-19

A New Year’s date is looming for South Florida parents: Jan. 8, when a state order to allow the option for students to learn at home during the COVID-19 pandemic expires.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to announced whether he will renew the order. Now some parents are preparing contingency plans.

At-home learning has proven popular in South Florida since DeSantis closed school buildings in March, offering a feeling of safety as coronavirus continues its relentless spread across the state and the country. In Broward County, 83% of students are learning virtually; in Palm Beach, it’s about 58%.

“I’ve been looking at other options,” said Melissa Cipriano of Boca Raton, mother of Giacomo, 6, who learns through his neighborhood school’s online kindergarten classroom. She doesn’t want her son to return to the school building, although she’s been frustrated with the large size of his virtual class, 28 students, and said Giacomo has been bored with the slow pace of instruction.

“Things are changing so fast with no warning,” said Randi Tobie Davis of Miami Gardens, whose three daughters learn at home through Miami-Dade public schools’ virtual programs. She fears the state will stop offering this choice.

“I have a list I’m working with of all our options,” she said.

Others say they will have to return their kids to classrooms.

“I would have liked to see the online option longer, because it’s been going great,” said parent Amy Spielman of Boca Raton, whose two daughters participate in the virtual program offered by Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. “But I work, and I don’t want to home school them. So they would have to go back to middle school, begrudgingly.”

There are several choices out there for parents who believe a traditional in-person classroom is not the right place for their kids this school year. Some may be full, so check their websites or call to make sure they have room for more children.

Florida Virtual School

Florida Virtual School, the statewide, tuition-free, K-12 online program, has surged in popularity since the pandemic began; there’s been a 57% increase in applications to its full-time school since July 1, spokeswoman Tania Clow said.

Dates to apply for next semester have not yet been announced, she said.

In the full-time program, students learn on a traditional school calendar with state certified teachers and get a Florida Virtual School diploma when they graduate. There are live and recorded sessions and frequent contacts with teachers, who communicate by phone, email and text.

Students can also enroll in FLVS Flex at any time and take one course or multiple courses as a supplement to home schooling or other schooling. Go to flvs.net for more information.

Broward Virtual School, Palm Beach Virtual School, Miami-Dade Online Academy

These are local franchises of the state Virtual School program. Teachers are based in your county and work on the same August-to-May schedule as the local school district.

Enrollment in Palm Beach Virtual School and Miami-Dade Online Academy is closed until next year.

Beginning Nov. 30, Broward Virtual School is accepting second semester applications for high school students. Its elementary and middle school are full. Go to bved.net for more information on enrollment.

Virtual charter schools

Many charter schools, which are privately run but paid for with tax money, have online learning options.

In Palm Beach County, search for charter schools at palmbeachschools.org.

In Broward go to browardschools.com/charter-schools.

And here’s Miami-Dade’s charter website: charterschoolsdadeschools.net.

Check with the schools to see if they are offering blended learning, which combines online and in-person schooling, or full-time online classes.

Learning pods

For parents who don’t want their children in a traditional classroom but want them to get a little bit of the socialization they would have gotten in school, there’s the learning pod. These small groups are usually in a home or a workplace. Most require members to adhere to strict rules, such as minimal contact with strangers to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Many of the pods fell apart as schools began to reopen in September and October. Still, a Facebook group, “Matching Students with Teachers - Broward (Pandemic Pods)”, remains active. And there are other ways to find pods, including those coordinated by Space of Mind Schoolhouse, which has centers in Delray Beach and Boca Raton. Parents can bring their own teacher and pods of three or more for $450 a month, or individual students can learn on their own using the curriculum of their choice for $500 a month, which includes a roving coach who is assisting several students.

Traditional home schooling

Then there’s the old-fashioned home school route, where an adult supervises learning using a curriculum chosen by the family. There’s an abundance of choices, depending on your child’s learning style, subjects you want emphasized, books you want your child to read, how much you want to pay (some curricula are free) and the kind of diploma you want the student to get. Some popular sites include K12.com, ConnectionsAcademy.com and Time4Learning.com.

Another site that shows parents home schooling options is CurriculumMatch.com, created by the National Home School Association.

“We at the National Home School Association just created a new service specifically for families like what you are describing. It can be found at www.CurriculumMatch.com,” said J. Allen Weston, executive director of the National Home School Association. “It matches up parents who are looking for educational products and services that meet their wants, needs and values with vendors that offer exactly what they are looking for.”

If you withdraw your children from your school district to home school them, make sure to let your school principal know. Otherwise, your children will be considered truant. Truancy can be a second-degree misdemeanor for the parents, with up to two months of jail time. You will also need to maintain a portfolio of your children’s work and submit to an annual evaluation.

Source - https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/schools/fl-ne-covid-options-next-semester-20201106-qicrvjrphjhaxc2crasifgllyi-story.html

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