Okeechobee students will have three school options in 2021


OKEECHOBEE– The Okeechobee County School District will offer three different options for students returning to school next month.

At the July 14 Okeechobee County School Board meeting the district revealed that parents will have the choice to have their students attend school in a traditional face-to-face setting, follow along live with their classes online in an option called Okeechobee Sync, or attend the Okeechobee Virtual School.

In the traditional face-to-face setting face masks will be required for the first nine weeks of school, with the mandate to be revisited after that time.

In the tentative plan laid out to the board on July 14 students have the option to return to school on Aug. 10 to receive traditional face-to-face instruction. Signage will be placed throughout each school site with information on symptoms,encouraging social distancing when possible, hand washing techniques and steps to take if you are not feeling well. There will also be hand sanitizer available in key areas to prevent contamination.

Extra furniture and other materials will be removed from classrooms to allow for more distancing.

Giving students the option of attended virtually as well was crucial because, as was pointed out during the meeting by superintendent Ken Kenworthy, if every student returned to campus social distancing guidelines would be hard to follow.

“Social distancing is not possible in most of our venues on the school campus,” said Kenworthy. “If everyone returned to face-to-face on Aug. 10, there are classrooms where I don’t think you would even be able to get three feet apart.”

Similarly the cohort model, where students spend their time on campus with the same group of students throughout the day to ease contact tracing, will not be possible at the high school level.

The live online option called Okeechobee Sync will have students attend school remotely, following the standard school schedule and bell times. Synchronous teaching and learning will happen via the internet. The district describes this option as being designed for families who would like to maintain their connection to their enrolled school, but don’t yet feel comfortable with in-person instruction.

Students would be formally enrolled in their assigned school, in their grade level, and teacher’s classroom and receive daily online instruction following their assigned school’s normal bell schedule.

The Okeechobee Sync model is intended for students who will eventually transition back to traditional school. The continuation of this model will be based on the how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. It is meant to be temporary and will be reevaluated each 9-week period.

For option three families will have to make a one semester commitment to Okeechobee Virtual school before returning to their school campus. Full-time online instruction will be completed at home. Families will have the ability to influence their child’s schedule, however, students are expected to be working on lessons each school day. This full-time program must operate on the traditional school calendar and students are required to have all coursework completed on or before the last day of school.

The deadline to sign up for either Okeechobee Sync or Okeechobee Virtual School is July 22. The school district will be sending out the registration forms for choosing one of those options later this week.