Superintendent Mark Mullins Discusses the Future of Brevard Public Schools
By Dr. Mark Mullins, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent // May 23, 2020
It is clear that the impacts of COVID-19 are evolving, but they are moving ahead to proactively plan
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – As a community and a country, we have been confronted with one of the longest periods of social and medical uncertainty.
In the past, our school district has weathered challenging times, but nothing compares to the disruption caused by statewide school closures and the rapid launch of emergency at-home learning.
Nevertheless, Brevard Public Schools successfully charted the way for distance learning for our county and we will do the same for re-opening the 2020-21 school year.
It is clear that the impacts of COVID-19 are consistently evolving, but we are moving ahead to proactively plan for every likely re-opening scenario.
We are following guidance provided by the Governor, guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as direction from the state Department of Education.
All of these technical considerations are in play while we also listen attentively to our student and parent populations who desire (and need) to get children safely back into schools where the highest levels of learning to prepare them for their futures.
To this end, a cross-functional task force made up of academic and operational district leaders, as well as medical professionals, has been working specifically on four key aspects of the new school year: safety, structure, supports and sensitivity.
SAFETY: The school district’s leaders are evaluating all health and safety measures that include expanding hand-sanitizer dispensers in common areas and on buses, the use of masks for employees and/or students, and many other options.
Please be assured we are evaluating all safety measures and will take the appropriate steps for our students and our employees as they are the priority.
STRUCTURE: Social distancing has been successful at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, yet it presents unique challenges when implemented in a traditional school environment. We are examining the layout of classrooms, hallways, school buses, and other shared spaces in preparation for this.
We are evaluating various school year structures including alternated school days, staggered start times, and hybrid attendance/distance learning models.
Final decisions will be made after we receive direction from the Florida Department of Education to address attendance, funding, staffing, and related issues.
SUPPORTS: Although our teachers, students and parents have done an exceptional job adjusting to emergency at-home learning, it cannot replace the power of in-person classroom learning experiences where a teacher can actively support both the emotional and academic needs of students.
Our academic experts are aligning formal and informal assessment measures to evaluate students’ academic standing when they return in the fall. Additional learning support options may include extended school days, Saturday learning opportunities, and enhanced supports within the classroom.
We are ready to support our teachers as the learning environment changes and we are prepared to provide our students the opportunities to excel, progress, or regain ground.
Extended summer learning options include enhanced distance learning experiences for students in kindergarten through 5th grade and Brevard Virtual School for students in grades 6-12.
SENSITIVITY: I am tremendously proud of our community’s response to this public health crisis — from the work of our educators and support of our parents and guardians to the generosity of our business and community partners. COVID-19 was powerless to the resolve of Brevardians helping and supporting each other, even if from a distance.
Maintaining sensitivity towards one another will be essential for positive progress as we prepare for the start of a new, yet different, school year.
As the strategic work of our re-opening task force continues, we will be deliberate and thoughtful in our approach to this next phase of our “new normal.”
We are committed to keeping our stakeholders and the public informed and engaged in the process. I will be communicating with my established teacher, employee, and community ambassadors, as well as union leaders to share information and obtain feedback to chart our path forward.
Throughout this process, we will continue to operate in a transparent manner and will keep our community informed as we reach major milestones.
As we close out this historic school year, our focus transitions to the summer and continuing distance learning for our students, extending meal distribution and maintaining safe work environments for our employees.
We are also working diligently to evaluate budget line items to capture savings associated with our school closures, while also preparing for the new, unfunded costs of implementing heightened health safety measures in August.
Regardless of what this pandemic or related situations may bring, I want to assure you that Brevard Public Schools remains dedicated to our mission of delivering the highest quality education to all our students for a bright and promising future.
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