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DCPS superintendent answers parents' questions as virtual learning gets ready to launch

First Coast News brought viewers' questions about Duval HomeRoom and how DCPS will handle it to the superintendent.

Zhane’ Anderson and her family walked into the gym at Ribault High School Saturday afternoon to pick up her loaner laptop. Anderson is one of about 25,000 students across Duval County checking out the laptops for virtual learning set to start Monday.

Assignments for middle and high schoolers will mostly be online through Duval HomeRoom. According to DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, who helped pass out laptops at Ribault Saturday, parents and caregivers of elementary schoolers can pick up education packets. They also have the option of accessing the elementary school curriculum on Duval HomeRoom.

“Some parents may not want them [elementary schoolers] to be on the computer all the time, so we have the paper-pencil packets,” Greene said.

Pick up for the packets will start Monday at elementary schools with the curbside grab and go lunch and a snack, or at elementary school bus stops.

There were some long lines at schools Saturday for loaner laptop pickup for high school and middle schoolers. Dr. Greene said that’s because some students didn’t come at the assigned times sent out to parents and students who responded to a survey last week that they needed a laptop and/or a hotspot. She asked that students please come at that assigned time.

“We will not run out of laptops,” she said.

Anderson, who is ninth-grader at a. Philip Randolph High School, said she has mixed feelings about virtual learning.

“It’s kind of like, I’m happy about it and interested to see how online school works, is it hard,” Anderson said. “It’s a 50 50. I’m really excited, but I wanted to go to school too,” she said.

Anderson and her four-year-old brother will be learning from home. Their mom, Shameka Tukes, said her work is being flexible right now, but she will eventually have to go back to her normal schedule.

“I just want them to continue with their education and just get as much knowledge as she can being homeschooled because they have never homeschooled before,” Tukes said. “She has never taken any online classes before. I’m just hoping that they can adapt to doing their work online and being home all day,” she said.

Several parents asked First Coast News about to ask DCPS about what to do if they can’t be home with their students as they learn. Greene said the school system has reached out to community partners to see if there’s an opportunity to provide any type of daycare. So far, there is nothing set in stone.

“Our focus is ensuring that your children have access to online instruction during this time and right now it states that we’ll be doing this until April 15,” Greene said.

Students can also log on to Duval HomeRoom 24/7 to keep up with work and stay connected with teachers, so they could do some of the work when parents get home from work too, Greene said.

“We’re running school as if they’re in brick and mortar, but yet we’re offering the freedom of virtual the flexibility of virtual,” Greene said. “You may have second period at 10 a.m., and if the teacher is giving you information to take, it doesn’t mean you have to do it at 10 a.m. You can do it sometime in the afternoon,” she said.

Greene said there are a lot of moving parts and asked for everyone’s patience.

“We’re working through the situation that we’re offering online or whether it’s through packets to over 100,000 students, it’s definitely going to be an experience and a journey one that we’re parents and our staff to have a little patience. We’re working through each situation,” she said.

Viewers also asked First Coast News what to do if students have an individualized education program. Greene said their teachers will be able to log on to Duval HomeRoom and the students will be able to learn virtually as well. She said they’ll be looking at each situation to see if any changes need to be made.

“It will be critical that we monitor it very closely and if we have to make adjustments, we will do what we always have been doing brainstorm and come up with a solution to address that need,” she said.

As far as the long wait times for the help center call line, Greene said there are other options for parents to get their questions answered.

“If you feel like you’re not getting through on a phone call, send an email. Send an email to your school administration and we will work through finding the answers and solutions,” she said.

Parents can also ask teachers and staff questions by chatting on Duval HomeRoom from 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.

Greene said she doesn’t expect any makeup days at the end of the school year because of the coronavirus and expects every student to finish on time. As far as an actual ceremony for graduation, she said they’ll have to wait and see where they’re at that point. Staff will also be calling families who haven’t logged on in several days to figure out why and help them if they need it.

Green said it’s this connection with the staff, teaches, students and families that will get them through this.

“I believe we may think back that this was an awful thing to happen to the United States this pandemic, but I will also think about the courage and strength I saw in my staff my board and employees doing what we had to do for our students,” she said.

“I’ve got so many people who just want to get off the bench and say put me in the game and that’s what they’re doing. We’re all supporting one another,” Greene said.

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