WATCH: BPS Chairwoman Misty Belford Discusses Plans for Next School Year, Answers Questions From the Public

By  //  April 15, 2021

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ABOVE VIDEO: Brevard Public Schools Chairwoman Misty Belford provided a BPS update on Wednesday that included news about next school year and the plan going forward from the school district’s point of view.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Brevard Public Schools Chairwoman Misty Belford provided a BPS update on Wednesday that included news about next school year and the plan going forward from the school district’s point of view.

Below is the first 10 minute transcription of some of the 30 min. interview:

Giles: Today, the good news here in the space coast of Florida is that life is slowly getting back to normal. Vaccinations are rolling out to all citizens across the board, thanks to all of our first responders. We’re live here at the Mike Erdmann Cadillac Studios on their island Space Coast Daily TV. And we have a very special guest in the studio with us today to give us an update on our schoolchildren and everything that we can really think about for the upcoming school year.

Giles: Welcome, chairman of the public school board, Mrs. Belford. Welcome, Misty. Thanks, Giles. Always happy to be here. Well, it’s great to have you here, Mr.. And we were just speaking before the interview about about this whole this last sort of 15 month period here. And what an amazing time it’s been. Did you ever imagine when they elected you chairman of the school board for the I guess it’s the fourth time, third time, I should say.

Giles: Did you ever imagine you’d have to deal with an issue like the pandemic?

Misty: Not in a million years, yeah.

Giles: What’s it been like for you personally? Tell us. You were telling me some amazing stories about your personal life and how you’ve had to deal with that. And we’ll get into the school district dealing in just a moment.

Misty: Yeah, you know, one of the interesting things about serving on the school board is I have two children in school and most of our school board members do actually have students in our schools. And so we have been experiencing this entire thing both as parents and our school board members. And I was sharing with you earlier that my son has actually been quarantined four times since December for various reasons. And it’s it’s definitely a roller coaster, not knowing, you know, at any point in time I could get a call to say, you need to come and pick him up from school and figure out how we’re going to educate him for the next 10 days.

So it’s been an adventure. But each time we have done the quarantine and thankfully he has not tested positive and we have managed to hopefully slow the spread along the way, too.

Giles: Yeah. So you’ve been dealing with the management of that five times. Misty’s son quarantined to make sure things were OK with covid. Thankfully, no covid there. But I know you had a loved one who did pass away from covid.

Misty: I did. I my grandmother passed away in December and that was in Ohio. I understand. Yes. Well, a sincere condolences for that. Dealing with the family issues is something that many people have had to deal with. And of course, also dealing with the the chairmanship of the school board school district, which we’ve got lots of things to talk about today. The good news is that there’s a big movement, right, to get our kids back in school.

Misty:Yes. And a lot of people feel that that’s where they need to be. Tell us what that’s been like getting the kids back to school and then some of the ramifications because of the the eLearning. Sure.

Misty: So we were blessed to be able to safely open our schools this year for the majority of our students. We did have a good portion of our students that were participating via e learning. And our e-learning solution actually allowed them to participate in what was going on in their classrooms, follow their school schedule, even have some interaction with their peers and their teacher. And it was it really was a great solution for a lot of families that were not comfortable sending their students back to school.

Misty:The thing that we found pretty quickly was our teachers were really champions and working through the challenges, not only technology challenges, but also just the challenge of having to basically teach two sets of students at the same time to maintain engagement with those students that were participating in e-learning. And so while we had the freedom to do the e-learning this year, we have decided that we will not be doing the hybrid learning next year. The state has not authorized an e-learning option, but we also realize that our students are much better off when they can be in the classroom and engage with their peers and their teachers.

Misty:And our teachers can be much more effective when they’re trying, not trying to cover two different platforms.

Giles: Yes. So indeed, you had the meeting, school board meeting last night, which was live on Space Coast Daily. We try to bring that all to you. And the the information coming down was that there’ll be no e-learning available. That’s a mandate from the state, isn’t it?

Misty:It is. It is coming from the state to some extent. So are e-learning or e-learning. Platform was only available because the Department of Education, the Florida Department of Education, gave us the freedom to offer the platform in that manner. We have not gotten any indication that they are going to extend that opportunity into next school year, which would mean that we would not be funded for any students that were participating in e-learning if that was not extended. It would also mean that students may not get credit for the work that they did in e-learning if the state didn’t extend that opportunity.

Misty:So we’ve not gotten any indication that’s going to happen. But we also feel feel pretty strongly that our students are going to be better off when they can be in the classroom and engaging in their learning fully.

Giles: And we also understand from last night’s meeting that no more block scheduling, correct?

Misty:We will have we have one high school that is still on has been on block scheduling prior to covid. That school will remain blocked, but the rest of our schools will go back to a regular seven period day. There it is, folks.

Misty: Kids going back to school in the fall, snow block learning. It’ll be seven periods as as normal. Everyone wants to get our lives back to normal. But for those students who aren’t able to for physical reasons, hospitalization reasons, what options do they have?

Misty: There are a few good options depending on the needs of the individual student students who prefer to continue with the virtual learning option. We have Bovard Virtual School, which doesn’t provide the synchronous learning that our e-learning platform did provide, but it does provide students the opportunity to continue learning. Virtually, it’s more of a self-paced option, a little less interaction. Obviously, they’re not going to have live lessons and those sorts of things, but that is a virtual option that’s available.

Misty: Florida virtual school is another option that is available. And for our students who have particular situations that might make it unsafe for them to actually come to to a brick and mortar school. We have a program that has been in place in Brevard County for many years, does require some specific situations for us to be able to do it. But we do have a hospital homebound program where we actually have teachers that go out to individual students houses. And so we we are doing our best to make sure that we can meet the needs of all of our students.

You have to deal with all students no matter what the situation we do. Absolutely. So interesting. So for those folks who may be learning, not available in the full state mandates coming down that have to be followed, but there are ways to provide virtual school available for those folks who are interested in kids who are in hospital, can get help from teachers, actually go and help them teach, talking about the the things we’ve learned during this pandemic. It’s obviously been a steep learning curve for us as it came onto to much Friday the 13th right.

bOf 2020. Amazing, amazing time, I understand, with your birthday. It was my birthday. It’s not much of a birthday present, was it?

It was not. Not at all.

Giles:  Yeah. Amazing. That was the date that the Department of Education told everyone what was happening and what they had to do at the district level. So the effect on children in eLearning. Have you any data that sort of suggests was there an improvement in learning a movement down and learning?

How did that turn out?

Misty: So we have been required by the state to do some pretty significant progress monitoring on all of our students to identify areas where there may have been gaps in learning. And so we have been tracking the success of our e-learning students. And, you know, as we find every child is so unique and has individual needs. So obviously there are some children who have done very well in the e-learning platform and it has just been a good fit for them other students.

Misty:And I would suggest the majority of the students who are participating in e-learning have not done so well. We’ve seen negative impacts on their academic performance. We’ve also seen significant disengagement from their learning process. And that’s a real concern for us because we know that students do best when they can engage in the learning and really take ownership of that. And we simply are not seeing that in the e-learning platform for the majority of the students.

Giles: Mm hmm. I know the half cent sales tax was passed, which is maybe created some revenue for maintenance and upgrades that aren’t going to be any changes this summer to the school system, physical buildings that might might be put into place to help with possible covid spread.

Misty: We’ll be doing lots of upgrades to our our facilities over the summer. I think we have about 50 projects that are scheduled this summer, and that’s everything from technology upgrades to some continued HVAC work to security issues, as well as freshening up some of our facilities. You know, we talked during the sales tax renewal effort about the condition of a lot of our facilities. And quite frankly, it makes it difficult to keep some of them clean because there’s been so much where.

bSo there will be a lot of work being done this summer for our schools in addition to a lot of students on our campuses this summer.

My thanks to you guys out there voting that a half cent sales tax in the health school district. This has been a positive thing going forward. I know you’re up. You’re a mom of a student who wrestles. Right. And that must be tough sometimes on the sidelines. Right. Look, looking at your son, getting in there with the big boys. Yes. Yes. He says no sports this fall. We’re hoping that things will be back to normal.

What’s your perspective on that?

We are into.