Florida districts and schools are finding creative solutions to meet the education needs of students affected by school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all districts implementing their distance learning plans by March 30.

We need your help sharing these solutions so policymakers and state leaders can learn from each other. Please forward this information to your state leaders who are seeking solutions and send us your school district’s innovative efforts for us to amplify and share nationally.

Florida Ramping Up Virtual School Training for Teachers and Student Capacity

The Florida Department of Education announced a partnership with the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) to offer student support and teacher professional development tailored to the online learning environment.

  • The Florida Department of Education is also offering $200 stipends to teachers who complete the training. As of April 1, 147 teachers have completed the training and an additional 3,417 are signed up.
  • FLVS is increasing its server capacity to accommodate 2.7 million students by May 4.
  • They have also partnered with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development to launch the Alaska Statewide Virtual School to support Alaska’s school districts and ensure ongoing opportunities for all students to learn.


Resources:

FLVS Virtual Teacher Training for COVID-19
Florida Department of Education Press Release
RedefinED: DOE Approves Expansion for Florida Virtual School
Patricia Levesque joined Dr. Corey DeAngelis with Educational Freedom Institute for a live conversation about Florida Virtual School and remote learning


32,000 Laptops Distributed to Small and Rural Districts

On April 11, Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced that 32,614 laptop computers are being distributed to 34 mostly small, rural school districts throughout Florida and the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School. When the COVID-19 crisis created the need for distance learning, the Department proactively began calling laptop suppliers throughout Florida and reaching out to Florida’s rural county school district consortia to identify both available supply and demand.

These districts serve predominantly low-income students and students and these resources help ensure all Florida students will be able to continue learning while schools are closed.

More information: 
Florida Governor’s Office Press Release


Teacher Certification Exam Delayed and Fees Waived

To ease the financial and professional stress on Florida’s teachers, the Department of Education delayed teacher certification test requirements and will provide teachers with the opportunity to take those tests at no cost. So far, the test costs for more than 22,000 teachers has been eliminated.

From April 1 through July 31, 2020, Florida Teacher Certification Examinations candidates can register for their exams free of charge. A voucher for a free exam is good for one year from the registration date.


Online Grocery Purchase Pilot Program for SNAP Recipients

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) announced Florida will pilot a program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase groceries online with the use of an EBT card. This partnership with federal, state and local partners will ensure Floridians can access nutritious food while also practicing social distancing and self-quarantining to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The pilot program in Florida will begin with an initial launch on April 16 and expand statewide on April 21 when both Walmart and Amazon online purchasing will be available. DCF will continue to coordinate with the USDA and the Florida Retail Federation to expand the network of retailers participating in the pilot program.

More information: 
DCF Press Release
Online Purchasing Pilot FAQs


Distance Learning Mini-Grant Program

The Florida Education Foundation, Florida DOE’s direct support organization, has launched a mini-grant program to offer public schools and districts, public charter schools and nonprofits the opportunity to receive matching funding for distance learning innovations that serve low-income students, enabling education to continue for those students through this crisis.

Program criteria include devices and connectivity for students and teachers, enriching virtual curriculum, extra academic support programs and virtual professional development.


Colleges Donate Supplies to Medical Community

With students out of classrooms and supplies not being used, Florida’s 28 state colleges and three private colleges have already donated 100 ventilators along with other medical supplies to Florida’s medical community. The colleges are also preparing extra donations in the coming weeks. In addition to donations, many are using 3D printers to create face masks for hospitals, including Gulf Coast State College and St. Petersburg College.


Miami-Dade County Shifts to Completely Virtual Education

The Miami-Dade School District has been preparing for the possibility of school closures since day one, according to a press release on March 18. Earlier in the month, the District provided teachers with additional professional development online to support distance learning. In addition, a support hotline was established for teachers, students and parents seeking assistance with distance learning. The expectation is that students will continue to progress in their learning under the consultation and guidance of their teachers.

Resources: 
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Instructional Continuity Plan
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Press Release


Florida Using University Students and Faculty to Aid Tracking of Coronavirus Spread

In an unprecedented gathering of resources, the state has recruited 100 professors and students from five universities to help the state understand the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, and how it’s spreading, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times on March 18.

The professors and students are being hired part-time to do what epidemiologists do: interview people with coronavirus about their history and symptoms, trace their contacts and enter that information into databases. They will be working in coordination with the Florida Department of Health’s 264 infectious disease epidemiologists, but they will not be going out in the field to interview coronavirus patients. Instead, they’ll be conducting interviews by phone.


Embry-Riddle Offers Free Online Courses for K-12 Students

The Florida Department of Education announced Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is offering “Aviation is Your Future,” a free massive open online course, as an introduction to aviation for children aged 8 to 17. The self-paced, six-hour online course helps fuel a passion for aviation by introducing young people to aviation fundamentals.

Learners enrolled in this online course explore aspects of flight such as lift, gravity, thrust and drag. They also learn to identify the major parts of an airplane, describe the flight characteristics of a helicopter and discuss the goals of space exploration. The free course is a project of the Women in Aviation International (WAI) Chapter at Embry-Riddle Worldwide, offered in conjunction with WAI.