(The Center Square) – Florida school districts and public charter schools impacted by Hurricane Ian are being given flexibility for student reporting, which normally occurs in October, as they assess damages and implement reopening plans. Most schools have reopened in impacted areas, with several in two counties expected to reopen by next week.
Public schools and public charter schools in districts impacted by Hurricane Ian are being given flexibility in how they report school attendance, which impacts state funding, the Commissioner of Education announced.
“As district leaders and their teams work around the clock to take care of their communities and reopen schools in the wake of Hurricane Ian, they should not fear losing state education funding due to the storm,” Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., said. “Allowing affected districts to base their student reporting on attendance prior to the hurricane will ensure districts are not negatively impacted any further.”
State law requires school districts to perform five student counts throughout the school year, including reporting how many students are attending school and how many classrooms are open.
Public schools and public charter schools that were closed for at least one day from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14 now have the option to choose an alternate attendance window for reporting student enrollment for the Florida Education Finance Program, the state Department of Education announced.
The report determines mid-year funding adjustments based on actual enrollment of students compared to projected enrollment of students. Providing flexibility with reporting will alleviate “unnecessary anxiety” for district leaders “due to the complications that counting students can cause during a period of response and recovery,” Diaz said.
Historically, hurricanes and other emergencies temporarily disrupt school attendance. The Department of Education, Diaz said, doesn’t “want a school’s funding to reflect what was a temporary disruption in their students’ attendance.”
Normally, school districts report the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in their district during the regular school year twice a year, in October and in February. The report also documents the courses in which students are enrolled. The data is then used to determine the level of state funding each school district receives annually.
For the October reporting period, the initial 11-day attendance window was scheduled from Friday, Sept. 30, through Friday, Oct. 14. Public schools and public charter schools that were closed for at least one day during that two-week period may select an alternate attendance window that encompasses the 11 days that schools were in session immediately preceding Hurricane Ian, the department says.
Charlotte County Schools plan to reopen schools in phases beginning as early as next week. DeSoto County Schools also plan to reopen schools in phases beginning as early as next week. Extracurricular activities and limited athletics will resume as early as Monday, Oct. 10.
Maintenance teams from Broward County Schools, Hillsborough County Schools, Miami-Dade County Schools, Osceola County Schools, Pinellas County Schools, and Polk County Schools are on-site in Lee County rebuilding schools.
Early Learning Coalitions are still experiencing closures in Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Sarasota, and Seminole counties.
School districts, state colleges and universities are beginning to announce reopening dates as they assess conditions. The most up-to-date reopening information can be found here.