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East County Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020 2 months ago

School District of Manatee County extends closures through May 1

E-learning program continues while students are kept off the campuses.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Just a day after the School District of Manatee County kicked off its online learning program, the district has extended school closures until May 1, following guidelines from the Florida Department of Education.

All extracurricular activities and athletics are canceled through May 1. 

"We are glad to get back to what we are all here for and that is to provide an excellent educational experience to the children of Manatee County, regardless of the challenges," said Cynthia Saunders, superintendent of the school district. "We also understand the need to protect the safety of our students, employees and community, so we are prepared and willing to provide instruction online for as long as it takes."

Students and teachers began online learning March 30 through the district's online learning management platform, Schoology. According to the district, about 29,600 students and about 4,400 teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators signed onto Schoology.

Throughout the district, about 8,000 devices were distributed to students throughout last week and March 30.

Schools continued to distribute thousands of devices March 30, causing some students to not sign on for their first day of e-learning. 

Michael Barber, a spokesperson for the School District of Manatee County, said there are several other reasons for why students might not have signed on, including some students being enrolled in daycare programs, students adjusting to the new platform and difficulty accessing WiFi.

Barber said Schoology lessons are also for the week, and students can access them whenever they choose. 

"Attendance is taken based on the completion of assignments for the week," Barber said in an email. "We won't know exactly what the students access patterns are until we get more data and we are further along in the process."

The district is continuing to work on increasing access to free WiFi services for its students, including equipping up to 50 school buses with roaming internet hotspots to provide service to areas such as migrant camps, community centers and churches. 

 "All in all, for the very first day, we think approximately 60% of our student population signing on was a productive start," Barber said.

Schoology, which is a national platform, was interrupted for about an hour March 30 due to the increase in the number of users across the country. Service was restored by noon and was "reportedly fully functional the remainder of the day" with the exception of brief glitches, according to the district.


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