Broward county public school board members were outspoken about their disapproval of starting school earlier than originally planned, but eventually voted to do just that.
On Thursday, board members voted unanimously to begin a staggered return to schools on Friday, Oct. 9. The first students back will be those in pre-K through second grade. Then third grade through sixth grade and ninth grade will return on Oct. 13, and finally seventh and eighth grade and 10-12 grade will return on Oct. 15. There will be a teacher planning day on Oct. 8.
The school board had already approved a plan with students returning to classes on Oct. 14, but Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent them and Miami-Dade a letter saying they needed to physically reopen schools by Oct. 5. Failure to do so would require justifications for each school kept closed.
Broward county risked losing up to $350 million in funding if they did not abide by the commissioners request. During the meeting, school board chair Donna Korn said that Corcoran had been watching the meeting and offered a compromise of beginning the year on Oct. 9.
"There is risk no matter when we open...For me there is a greater risk in education for Broward county school students if we have to face a $300 million deficit," Korn said.
Superintendent Robert Runcie said the county can let parents reevaluate their choice of going back to brick-and-mortar schools or staying online.
"You can move from face-to-face back to e-Learning at anytime in the semester, but if you chose the e-Learning choice you must remain there until the end of the semester," he said.
Students can attend school over e-learning if they are sick for a couple of days and then return to school. This will rely on effective and regular communication between school staff and families.
Members of the board brought up several concerns, such as having the bus system ready to go and ensuring that PPE for faculty and staff would arrive on time. It was said that the county may not be able to offer bus transportation during the first week of school due to routing issues.
Several board members called the commissioners letter a form of extortion or a political tactic.
"You cannot hold money over our heads and think that we are not going to do what's in the best interest of our families and our students," said board member Laurie Levinson. "You're going to have a hell of a fight"