BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Thursday was the second day of online learning for students in the Broward County School District. It was also the second day of hearings in Tallahassee as teachers tried to overturn Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order to open classrooms, which continued throughout the afternoon.
In Broward County, frustration remains from some of the parents on how the online learning experience is going.
On Day Two for 5-year-old Olivia Mulligan, her mother, Sarah, had a simple description for the experience.
“It’s a disaster right now,” Sarah Mulligan said.
She told Local 10 that starting off the morning was fine, but then, things fell apart.
“Everything went well and then, we went over to music class and we weren’t even able to get on to music class.”
Broward Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie said Wednesday that he was aware that there were reports of some problems at the beginning of the first day.
“There are some reports of glitches, but I think that’s somewhat exaggerated,” Runcie said. He promised that the school districts information technology department had “addressed” the issues.
"We don't anticipate seeing that again tomorrow," he said Wednesday.
But on Thursday, Olivia, a kindergartener, was still having issues. Olivia, like many children in Broward, is adjusting to the new normal of online learning.
A statement from the school district’s Office of Communications to Local 10 said that the IT department had fixed issues and that any problems anyone experienced were isolated:
“Per our Information and Technology Department, today was a successful day. There were no district wide issues regarding problems accessing Canvas. Any isolated incidents experienced by users were unrelated to the system itself. Parents experiencing issues should contact their child’s school for assistance.”
Runcie said he would “give it a week” for adjustment.
Sarah Mulligan wasn’t able to get much work done Wednesday as she spent most of her day helping Olivia navigate her online classrooms.
After the day ended, she said her social media feeds were filled with parents who were disappointed in their first-day experience.
“I want her to her to be able to get comfortable to at least log in and it works and runs, so that way I’m able to then kind of focus on working. It’s just every frustrating,” she said.
Drop in enrollment
This frustration could be the reason that Broward Schools have seen a drop in enrollment. This year, Broward has 261,000 students, which is 6,971 fewer than last year. Close to 2,000 are of kindergarten age – almost a quarter of the total percent.
"We believe that number is definitely pandemic related of folks exercising other options. Either going somewhere else or home schooling or doing something outside of connecting today," Runcie said.
Meanwhile in the state’s capitol, the fight continues in court. The Florida Education Association (FEA) filed suit last month to have the state's order to open all brick and mortar schools later this month declared unconstitutional.
The FEA argues it violates a mandate in the Florida Constitution for the state to provide a “safe, secure” public school system.
On Thursday, a mother from Palm Beach Gardens testified that her son is autistic and online learning does not work for him. She said during the Zoom meeting that her preference would that schools wait until they can open completely full time.
Jay Bhattacharya, M.D., PhD, a professor of medicine and researcher from Stanford University, also testified at the meeting that kids who have the disease are less likely to pass the virus to adults even if they are positive. But, he did say that infected teachers could spread the virus to other teachers and to kids.
DeSantis has repeatedly stressed parents should have the option of in-class instruction or remote learning.
As far as the lawsuit or executive order issued by the state, it does allow districts to decide when they will open based on the pandemic at the local level.
Runcie said he is hoping to have a hybrid program in place in October, where some students will be present for learning inside a physical classroom.
Broward Schools has a Parent University, a webinar series for all school levels, created to provide step-by-step guidance. The four webinars are available in Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian-Creole, Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese through closed captioning.
Beginning Monday, Aug. 24, technical support and troubleshooting will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The number is (754) 321-0569.
More information from Broward Schools on its reopening plan and online learning can be found at Browardschools.com/schoolreopening.