Florida’s plan for federal school relief money includes pandemic measures, online learning

Florida submitted its plan late Wednesday for the remaining $2.3 billion of federal education funds previously waiting to be released to the state, the Associated Press reported. The 342-page plan addresses some COVID-19 pandemic concerns by encouraging mask use and allocating money for online learning, while also introducing proposals to improve math and reading programs.

The plan’s submission came two days after the U.S. Department of Education shined the light on Florida as the only state that hadn’t yet sent its agenda for the round of education funds, the AP reported. The state used data from assessments that were taken last spring to develop the plan, and surveyed educators, parents and other individuals to designate other issues after results from the assessment became available in July.

The plan suggested using some of the funds to purchase supplies like face masks, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and other personal protective equipment to boost safety in schools amid the pandemic, according to the AP. While the plan noted that the state doesn’t require students to wear face masks, it said schools should consider ways to use them.

“At a minimum, schools should be supportive of students, teachers and staff who voluntarily wear cloth face coverings,” it says.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Florida submitted its plan late Wednesday for the remaining $2.3 billion of federal education funds previously waiting to be released to the state. Above, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran speaks during a bill signing ceremony at St. John the Apostle School in Hialeah, Florida, on May 11, 2021. Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

Narrowing the achievement gap in reading and math between students from lower-income families and other students is a high priority. The state Department of Education proposes hiring up to 2,000 additional reading coaches, making summer school available for students who need the most help and improving assessments to identify student progress.

The plan proposes spending $35 million to increase capacity for vocational training programs in the state’s college system to enable students to receive industry certifications and college credits, and $11 million more would fund equipment for K-12 and post-secondary vocational programs.

It also proposes $8 million so that 200,000 students can take the SAT and ACT at no cost.

The plan also calls for preparation for future school closures due to emergencies that require out-of-classroom instruction. It would increase the capacity for the existing virtual school program and provide all teachers training on virtual instruction.

It would provide $8 million to help schools develop plans for distance learning.

“The Instructional Continuity Plan can be deployed for periods of time ranging from a day or week, to a month, a semester or even longer if necessary,” it said.

Monday’s letter from the U.S. Department of Education pointed out that states were required to submit these plans by June. The state notified the federal agency in May that it would need additional time.

Florida’s 342-page plan for federal education relief funds addresses some COVID-19 pandemic concerns by encouraging mask use and allocating money for online learning. Above, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis arrives at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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