Empty classroom

Polk County Public Schools officials announced Tuesday that the 2020-21 school year will be delayed by two weeks.

In-person instruction was originally scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 10, but has been pushed back to a start date of Monday, Aug. 24, as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in and around Polk County.

“We are trending upward with the rise of COVID-19 cases, not only in the state but right here in Polk County,” PCPS Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said. “At this time, I do not feel it is safe to physically reopen schools on Aug. 10. We need to delay the opening of school at least until Aug. 24. We will continue to monitor the situation with health officials and, if the spread of the virus remains high, we can further delay the physical reopening of our brick-and-mortar schools if necessary.”

The announcement made Tuesday outlines a timeline where teachers will begin undertaking some professional development on Aug. 17.

Meanwhile, parents of PCPS students are being strongly encouraged to meet the district’s registration deadline of July 27 to indicate which of the three learning options outlined by the district they have chosen for their student or students.

That timeframe would give officials a little less than a month to make accommodations and take precautions with the benefit of knowing just how many students will participate in in-person instruction.

PCPS has given parents the following three choices for the 2020-21 school year: Campus Learning, Campus eSchool and Polk Virtual School.

Campus Learning is in-person instruction, on campus, with teachers and classmates. This will include various health and safety protocols that are still being outlined and formulated. Transportation and meals will be provided.

Campus eSchool is an option wherein students remain enrolled in their zoned, choice or magnet school of acceptance, but instead participate in online learning. As outlined in the PCPS release, students will be expected to log in at a certain time and there will be specified timeframes for subjects such as math, science and language arts.

School officials are asking parents who choose the Campus eSchool option to make a quarterly commitment to the option, during which they can evaluate whether the option is best for them and their child.

Finally, there is Polk Virtual School, the district’s longstanding virtual school program. This option entails lessons taught by PCPS teachers, but students work at their own pace and can set their own schedule — making time management and self-motivation essential for success.

In the Polk Virtual School option, parents are expected to serve as learning coaches and should monitor students’ progress in completing their assignments.

PCPS officials are asking parents who choose Polk Virtual School to commit to the option for a semester.

More information about these options and the various reopening information related to PCPS can be found at https://polkschoolsfl.com/reopening/. There, parents can also digitally fill out a School Intent Registration Form.