An open letter to the Alachua County School District calls for a detailed distance digital learning plan

Uncertainty is the only consistent factor across North Central Florida in tackling the upcoming school year.
Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 11:47 PM EDT
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More than 150 signatures in an open letter shows support for the Alachua County School Board to call a special emergency meeting to discuss reopening plans. The author adds, “All of these things take time, if the goal of the district is to open schools on August 10.”

A draft plan released by the district on June 30 outlines a range of possibilities for the fall from in-person to a digital distance learning. The letter, co-authored by Sarah Rockwell, lists what parents and teachers would like to see in digital learning.

Rockwell said, "We want it to address equity for students with disabilities and for our black students who are already not being served very well equity wise in our district. So that's a huge concern for any sort of online education plan is that it be accessible and equitable and high quality."

Flexibility in the learning schedule, adjusting the school start date, equal internet access for all students and a socializing aspect in the digital academy are just some of the suggestions in the letter.

A parent said, "And as a single parent, I've been a single parent for his whole life, its very hard to plan. You need to be able to have a plan in place." Anonymous comments from parents and teachers favor digital learning that keeps students and their teachers close and connected. It's an option Aly Anderson wants to see for her son.

Anderson said, “But it doesn’t really say if you’re be connected to your school or not. It doesn’t say if he’ll see Westwood friends on the digital academy or have Westwood teachers on the digital academy. There’s no clarity on that.”

The goal of more than 400 members of the Alachua County Distance Learning Facebook group for the school district is clear. Rockwell added, “None of us were prepared for this so our goal is to help the district as much as their goal is to help our children.”

Reopening plans for the upcoming school year will be discussed in a school board workshop meeting on July 8 at 2 pm. The end goal of that meeting is to have a finalized plan by July 15. The meeting is still virtual but people can leave comments by coming to the district office, call-in or send an email.

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