Orange County pushing distance learning for remainder of school year

Orange County is leading the charge in pushing for distance learning to extend for the rest of the school year.

A letter that the Medical Advisory Committee for Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) sent to the state Department of Education urges the department to continue to make distance learning available for the rest of the school year. The committee called it a “medical necessity” and “academic necessity” that offers the “safest environment for our students and teachers.”

“You wouldn’t suddenly remove the seatbelts from cars now simply because the people aren’t dying in car accidents because they’re wearing seatbelts,” said Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi, who serves on the OCPS Medical Advisory Committee.

The option for distance learning is set to expire at the end of December. Governor DeSantis is now considering whether to eliminate distance learning and require all students to return to in-person learning in January.

“Schools are not drivers of spreading coronavirus, and schools need to be open,” said Gov. DeSantis at a news conference last month.

Dr. Ajayi is a pediatric pulmonologist who serves on the district’s Medical Advisory Committee and helped draft the letter to the state.

“If you remove virtual school, then it means you’re asking everyone to go back into class which makes it impossible to maintain social distancing,” he said.

OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins sent FOX 35 News a statement saying in part

“The committee’s letter to Commissioner Corcoran is evidence of their continued support of safe educational choices for our families as we prepare for the second half of the school year.”

Parents we spoke with are mixed on the issue.

“I think parents should have a right to choose if they want their child to be face-to-face during this scary time or still have the option to do virtual,” said Brooke Hooper, a parent who lives in Orange County.

“I believe in sending the kids back to school and having them at home, not socialized is worse than getting them in school,” said Jessie Egan, a parent who lives in Orange County.

A decision is expected by the end of the month.