Florida Schools Reopening and School Choice
Parents, clients, potential clients and professional colleagues have been contacting us with lots of questions and also asking for advice in making decisions about what to do with their children’s education come fall. Surveys have been sent out throughout districts statewide asking parents to select from a set of options. It is extremely important that parents and teachers fill out and submit these surveys so that school districts can properly plan for ALL students. Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran ordered that all Florida public schools must reopen their campuses in August and offer five days a week of brick and mortar education as an option. This DOES NOT mean that all students will have no other option through the public school system but to go to brick and mortar school five days a week. Most districts throughout the state of Florida have already issued Reopening Plans that include the following options,
- Hybrid Model: Online and In School (2-3 days in school per week with alternating cohorts)
- In School Learning- full time available for special populations, such as students in self contained classes where it is presumed the most complex learners to reach online are.
- e-learning full time- any parent can make this selection, including parents that have students with IEP’s in self contained classrooms or special schools all day
- Florida Virtual School, which existed before school closures (totally separate from e-learning which will be provided by and through the school).
- Some districts have their own online school Magnet Program, Dade County is one district that does, Miami Dade Online- abbreviated to MDO.
AND- if those are not enough options for parents, here are others to think about,
- Withdraw your child from the public school system AND register him/her as a home education student with your districts home education office. This option has always been available to parents and should be considered thoroughly for all that it entails. Parents could either homeschool until they feel comfortable with returning their child to the public school system OR they could decide to continue home education as long as they see fit and apply for the Florida Gardiner Scholarship to use for the following year. The only requirement to homeschool is to register your child with your district as a home education student and to submit an annual report completed by a certified teacher or other qualified professional. You have the option for your child to participate in statewide testing, or not. AND you can contact the home education office to access any district curriculum to use in your home, should you choose to. Some home education students also choose to register part time at their home public school and receive ESE services and/or related services.
- There are parents who are choosing to leave the public school system and to select a private school option that they believe is handling Covid related issues/CDC School Guidelines and education better than their districts proposed plan. There are private schools that are keeping classrooms very low, offering hybrid models and also offering virtual education full time. If you have applied for the FL McKay Scholarship, great! If not, go ahead and consider applying ASAP. The deadline is today to have the funds available towards your first private school installment. YOU CAN STILL apply after today, you would just miss the first pay out cycle and would have to wait for the next. If the private school you are considering has space and is a participating private school, it’s a non issue. To ensure you are eligible for McKay, check their official website cited below. Also, you MAY NOT use the Florida Gardiner Scholarship in conjunction with the Florida McKay Scholarship. If you aren’t eligible for McKay, but have the financial ability to do so, you could fund a private school placement yourself. Please be aware that when you leave the public school system your child is no longer entitled to the full scope of protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), including the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education and to be educated in his or her Least Restrictive Environment. However, there are certain provisions under IDEA for parent elected private school placement students.
- If you have a child that is medically fragile, or that has a health condition that would make it life threatening OR of serious risk to contract Covid-19, you might be eligible for a Hospital Homebound placement. Hospital Homebound constitutes as a change of placement in your child’s IEP determined by a doctor’s order. This change of placement could involve IEP services delivered to the home and is worth considering.
School choice, in general but even more so now, is an extremely personal decision for each parent to make and obviously each parent goes into that decision making process with their own set of considerations. Even before the virus, we had parents that chose home education for a whole host of reasons, including nutrition and religion. So to make a judgement is not appropriate, but we all obviously can have our opinion and can share our opinion without fear of being persecuted- I think we should be able to do that at least.
Fortunately, we are the parents of our own kids, so we make our own final call. There is a lot of complaining going on amongst teachers and parents alike about the reopening plans proposed. I, on the other hand, feel that we are lucky to have so many choices and that parents can exercise those choices. NOT every state or country has the options that we do. Consider that we are one of only three states that has a comparable program to the McKay Scholarship fund to begin with. Each choice comes with considerations individual to the student and family. Please realize that if you leave the Public School system and re-enter, the same IEP you left with will be in effect when you return. IEP’s DO NOT expire or terminate, contrary to what many schools misinform parents. The team would need to meet within thirty days of re-enrollment and follow the most recent IEP in the interim.
I believe children are paying a great price socially, emotionally, academically and communication wise – and for some students the impact of that is greater than others. We need to be respectful of each others choices and make ours based on careful consideration and our own gut instincts as parents. AS an advocate, parents are texting and calling me asking me what they should do. That is not my place. I can only share what I am doing (happy to if you contact me directly) and also help parents navigate ALL of the options available to them. I know that parents will make the right choice for their family and their unique set of circumstances so long as they have the information to do so.
Please contact us if you need more information about school choice in general, as well as school choice options in light of the pandemic. We are offering reduced fee, single session consultations all summer in an effort to help ALL parents.
Please email [email protected] with any questions and feel free to comment below.