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Request for Continuation of Innovative Learning Options

ACCPTA sent the following letter to Governor DeSantis in support of continuing innovative learning options (the Digital Academy in Alachua County) in Spring 2021.


Dear Governor DeSantis:

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate* for all children. The Alachua County Council of PTA’s (ACCPTA) is an all-volunteer organization that strives to carry out this mission in Alachua County through advocacy, leadership training, and support for our school-based PTA units.

In working toward our mission, we are in constant communication with parents, families, teachers and staff within our schools and our district, and recently administered a county-wide survey to capture input. We are aware of their individual situations and how COVID has impacted their health and their lives. The pandemic has thrown our education system into a state of chaos, with no easy solution. Families continue to make difficult decisions as they are forced to balance economic uncertainty, educational stability and the health and safety of their family and their community.

We’ve also observed a continued and renewed support for our public schools. As many families grapple with supporting their children’s education more than ever before, their support and respect for teachers continues to increase. Our community recently overwhelmingly favored the renewal of a one mill tax referendum to keep valued arts programs, counselors and technology in our schools (among other things), recognizing the importance of fully funded and supported public schools.

The family to school relationship has never been more important as we work through this uncertainty together. We thank you and Commissioner Corcoran for your support and implementation of the existing emergency orders which allow virtual meetings and innovative options for virtual education (beyond the typical Florida Virtual School). These options have allowed many students to continue to remain connected to their schools and teachers, providing much-needed consistency and familiarity while making important individual choices regarding health and safety. They have also allowed for increased participation and civic engagement during our School Board meetings, which we believe is critical to making informed decisions that impact the public.

We request that you extend the options for virtual meetings and innovative, district-led virtual learning (the Digital Academy in Alachua County) through the end of the 2020/2021 school year, while providing the same amount of funding using 2019/2020 student enrollment numbers. Locally, our Digital Academy has provided critical continuity of education for all families in cases of quarantines, which are expected to continue (especially as quarantines have been shown to reduce COVID exposure).

Every family should be able to make an informed decision that is best suited for them based on circumstances such as extenuating medical conditions, elderly family members that may be living with school-aged children, parent work environments, and other factors. Allowing these options to continue will provide families with a choice to continue a much-needed connection to their child’s school and continued opportunities to advocate.

We appreciate your consideration of our request. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Mary Benedict
President, Alachua County Council of PTA’s
Alachua.cc@floridapta.org

Megan Hendricks
Vice President and Legislative Chair, Alachua County Council of PTA’s
vice_president@accpta.org

CC:
Karen Clarke, Superintendent, Alachua County Public Schools
Eileen Roy, Chair, School Board of Alachua County
Leanetta McNealy, Vice Chair, School Board of Alachua County
Tina Certain, Member, School Board of Alachua County
Robert Hyatt, Member, School Board of Alachua County
Gunnar Paulson, Member, School Board of Alachua County
Paul Myers, Administrator, Florida Department of Health in Alachua County

*National PTA positions that support healthy schools:
Elements of Comprehensive Health Programs
Safe and Supportive Schools
Distance and Remote Learning for K-12 Students
Re-opening of Schools for 2020/2021

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