June 18, 2020
By: Staff Report
POLK COUNTY – Polk County Public Schools’ reopening task force held its second meeting Wednesday, during which members were instructed to move forward with plans for physically reopening schools and offering virtual enrollment for the 2020-21 school year.
PCPS is planning to reopen schools for traditional, face-to-face instruction in August. The district is also expanding options available through Polk Virtual School for families who prefer their children participate in virtual learning.
The task force first convened June 11. During that meeting, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd, Deputy Superintendent John Hill and Acting Chief Academic Officer Michelle Townley encouraged members to suggest additional participants that would represent diverse perspectives and areas of expertise.
The task force now includes the following individuals:
- Lori Cunningham, Polk County School Board chair (School Board member Sarah Fortney serves as an alternate.)
- Jacqueline Byrd, superintendent
- John Hill, deputy superintendent
- Michelle Townley, acting chief academic officer
- Rob Davis, assistant superintendent for support services
- Teddra Porteous, associate superintendent for human resources services
- Tina Barrios, associate superintendent for information systems and technology
- Rachel Pleasant, senior director of public relations and strategic partnerships
- Jason Geary, senior coordinator of media relations
- Stephanie Yocum, Polk Education Association president
- Larry Milhorn, AFSCME Local 2227 president
- Audrey Kelley, senior manager of prevention, health and wellness
- Kim Long, executive director of Polk Vision
- Josh Beck, district advisory committee chair
- Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County
- Scott Sjoblom, communications manager of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County
- Sarah Frederick, ESE district advisory committee chair
- Jennifer Glisson, Central Florida Health Care pediatrician
- Nicole Hinds, Lakeland Regional Health pediatrician
- Nildalis Caraballo, Wahneta Elementary School principal
- Alain Douge, Lake Gibson Middle School principal
- Rodrick Gray, Laurel Elementary School Acting principal
- Amy Hardee, Fort Meade Middle-Senior High School principal
- Art Martinez, Lakeland High School principal
- Edgar Santiago, Lakeland Highlands Middle School principal
- Gina Kulbaba, sign language interpreter
- Dymarie Nieves, pre-k teacher at Sleepy Hill Elementary
- Jennie Cyran, 2019 Polk County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, teacher at Griffin Elementary
- Chris Olson, teacher at Stambaugh Middle School
- Vincent Miller, 2020 Polk County Public Schools Teacher of the Tear, teacher at Winter Haven High School
- Lois Horn-Diaz, 2018 Polk County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, teacher at Wagner Elementary
- Kaila Paige-Culmer, school counselor at Mulberry Middle School
- Brandie Gogel, ESE self-contained teacher at Chain of Lakes Elementary
- Kay Llewellyn, principal’s secretary at Dixieland Elementary
- Norma Reyes, paraeducator at Purcell Elementary
- April Sumner, Jean O’Dell Learning Center principal
- Dan Talbot, senior coordinator of athletics
- Beth Cummings, fine arts director
- Tosha Littles, designee of School Board member Lisa Miller
- Sheila Keith, designee of School Board member Sarah Fortney
- Christy McCullough, designee of School Board member Billy Townsend
- Nicholas Lopez, student at Winter Haven High School and designee of School Board member Sara Beth Reynolds
Many of the task force members are also parents of students in the district.
During the second task force meeting, which took place virtually, Townley provided an overview of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ and Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s plans for reopening schools at full capacity in the fall.
Two task force subcommittees will be formed to prepare for the 2020-21 school year: The Health & Safety subcommittee will develop protocols to safeguard students and employees, while the Instructional Continuity Plan subcommittee will work to develop a plan for ensuring instruction proceeds with as little disruption as possible if a classroom, grade level or entire school must close as the result of an outbreak.
Watch the task force’s full meeting here:
Results Available From PCPS Back-to-School Safety Survey
Results are now available from a Polk County Public Schools safety survey about the upcoming school year.
The survey focused on potential safety measures being used in response to COVID-19 for the 2020-21 school year. More than 37,000 responses were provided by PCPS parents, employees and community members from May 29 through June 12. The PCPS survey was modeled after similar surveys conducted by other school districts, and the Florida Department of Education.
See the attached PDF for the results of the survey.
In addition, PCPS received more than 8,600 comments through the survey, with prevalent topics including:
- How the school district should address student usage of masks
- Opening schools for the fall semester
- Continuation of distance learning
- Various impacts to PCPS students and employees
- Sanitizing of school buildings
- Suggestions for additional safety measures
The responses and feedback provided through the survey are being reviewed by the local task force that has been assembled to prepare for the 2020-21 school year. The task force includes the chair of the Polk County School Board; district administrators and school principals; leadership from the unions representing PCPS educators, bus drivers, custodians and other employees; PCPS teachers; the director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County; and pediatricians from Lakeland Regional Health and Central Florida Health Care, Inc.
In addition to the survey responses, the task force is reviewing guidance from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and the Florida Department of Education to plan for the 2020-21 school year.
Updates will be provided to PCPS parents, employees and community members as soon as possible.