School bells will be ringing Monday, August 24, 2020 for some of the local private schools, although with different approaches in response to concerns about COVID-19.

On Monday, July 6, 2020, Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Education, signed DOE ORDER NO. 2020-E0-06. One section read, “NOW, THEREFORE, I, Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education (Department), pursuant to the authority granted by Executive Order 20-52, issue this order to accomplish the goals of: 1) reopening brick and mortar schools with the full panoply of services for the benefit of Florida students and families; 2) suspending and adjusting as necessary reporting requirements to ensure appropriate monitoring and financial continuity of the educational process; 3) retaining high-quality school choices for Florida students and families with a focus on eliminating achievement gaps, which may have been exacerbated by the crisis; and 4) maintaining services that are legally

required for all students, such as low-income, English language learning, and students with disabilities. The temporary and limited nature of the waiver of statutes and rules is necessary to respond to the pandemic. Much like the statutory provisions authorizing an agency to vary or waive a rule under section 120.542, Florida Statutes, all suspensions or modifications provided for in this order provide an alternate means of achieving the underlying purpose of the statute or rule. I find that flexibility provided for in this order is necessary in order to respond to and mitigate the impact of the emergency and to promote the health, safety, and welfare of persons connected with Florida's educational system.”

Miami-Dade and Monroe County public schools have opted for distance learning, at least initially, but private schools do not fall under control of their respective counties. Homestead’s Atala Montessori School for Creative Expression, a member of the Association of Independent Schools of Florida (AISF), has selected on-line for students, but they do have a reschool/toddler segment. “Our start date will remain August 24th for all students Toddler through Middle School. Because our model of education primarily consists of direct face-to-face contact with students through Zoom, rather than software packages, we are comfortable starting on time this year.

As with the MDCPS plan, our PHASE 1 will be all school-age children receiving daily classroom activities entirely online. However, please note that because we are a school with a preschool/toddler component, all children four and under are able to come back to school on August 24th. PHASE 2 will begin when we are confident that the cases of COVID-19 have dropped to a reasonable number for a sustained time, we will begin to phase in our school-age groups as families are ready. Prior to that date we will send a second survey to see who plans to attend in person and who will remain online. We understand that there are families who would prefer to stay online a bit longer because of health-and family-related issues and we will respect those preferences. In PHASE 3, all children will return to campus. While we cannot predict exactly when that will happen, we are hopeful that this will take place in the Winter, but will wait as the virus research develops. We will rely on the published data to make that final decision and we will work with everyone as much as possible.”

First United Methodist Christian School, established in 1953, has preschool through grade eight. Principal Windy Parker prepared a fifty-one-page Powerpoint Presentation and a series of video segments to provide details of their re-opening plan. Wendy Hays, Marketing Specialist, explained their

approach. “We plan to open our doors on August 24th for families who want in person learning. We are also giving families a distance learning option and they will be able to re-evaluate that decision each nine weeks.”

Colonial Christian School, founded in 1970, has approximately 300 preschool and K-12 students. They too will open, Monday, August 24, 2020 with a mix of classes. “We are opening on August 24th with both classes on our physical campus, as well as virtual classes. Our parents have been given the option to select the format that best fits the needs of their child and family. They will have the opportunity to change their selection each quarter,” explained Terri Morrissey, Ed.S., Administrator.

All schools have included enhanced health and safety measures for staff and students and modified certain activities such as traditional field trips.

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