Southside Elementary School

Southside Elementary School

Image: Jenny Acheson

The Sarasota County School Board is hoping to push back the 2020-21 school year start date from Aug. 10-Aug. 31 in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. In a workshop Tuesday during which it also named a new superintendent, Dr. Brennan Asplen, the board said it wants to request a delay from the Florida Department of Education, which ordered all schools to reopen as usual next month unless local officials propose a satisfactory alternate plan. Under Sarasota County's proposed plan, teachers would return to the classroom on Aug. 17, two weeks before students do.

Tuesday's workshop ended before the board could officially authorize the Sarasota County School District to request a delay from the Florida DOE; however, most school board members were in favor of doing so. The district's plan—which will include three options—must be submitted to the DOE by July 31.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County's reopening plan would offer three options: a full return to physical school buildings, five days a week; full-time virtual school through Sarasota Virtual; or remote learning, in which children remain enrolled at their current schools but take courses remotely. The district says it also hopes to allow teachers to apply for a one-year leave of absence if they're not comfortable returning to school due to COVID-19.

If required to return to the classroom, the district says it will put multiple safety measures in place, including mask protocols, limited movement throughout schools and spaced-out classrooms, and encouraging parents to drive students to school to avoid close contact on school buses.