A message from Alachua County Superintendent Karen Clarke
University of Florida Faculty and Staff,
If your home is feeling more crowded and your family is feeling more stressed these days, you’re not alone! At the Clarke household we have one college student, one middle school student and a UF employee working remotely under the same roof. It’s not easy, but we know that all this ‘togetherness’ is absolutely essential to beating COVID-19 in our community.
As you may be aware, Governor DeSantis announced over the weekend that Florida’s students would not be returning to school this school year. Instead, students will continue with their remote learning through the regularly scheduled school calendar, which for Alachua County ends on May 28th. I know that there are many questions out there about everything from cleaning out lockers and desks, to picking up yearbooks, to graduation ceremonies. We are working through the logistics of these issues as well as many others, and will be communicating with families in the very near future.
Even with schools physically closed, there’s still a lot happening in Alachua County Public Schools. We’re distributing more than 150,000 meals every week to children at 78 sites across the county, and we’ve stepped up to help other community agencies with food distribution. To help families with remote learning, we’ve given out more than 2,800 laptops, ipads, and other devices and have set up school bus ‘hot spots’ at 45 locations throughout the county. We’ve even donated masks, gloves and other equipment to Alachua County’s Emergency Management team to help healthcare professionals get through this crisis.
Those of you with children in our schools know that our teachers and administrators have been hard at work to keep our students engaged in learning. Our watchwords throughout this process are ‘compassion and grace,’ and I appreciate the dedication of our staff and the patience of our parents as we navigate this new world of all-remote instruction!
If I could offer a few words of advice to our parents, it would be to be kind to yourselves. Many of you have never been trained or taken courses on the delivery of a child’s education! You are juggling working from home with teaching your children, while at the same time dealing with the mental stress of managing the health of your family. You have a number of big stressors in your lives right now and we get that! The school district is here to help you as much as we possibly can.
I encourage you to visit the district’s website at www.sbac.edu for more information and resources to help you and your children get through this difficult period. Our COVID-19 page has a list of meal sites, technical support links, parent resources, even information on how to get counseling for children who are experience significant emotional distress because of this crisis. We also have a very small but dedicated staff on duty at each school and at our district offices who are available to answer your phone calls. There are also some wonderful supplemental resources sites where parents can find all sorts of ideas, activities and supplemental educational materials. Some of my favorites are:
If there’s one silver lining in all of this, it’s the wonderful way that so many organizations and individuals in our community have come together (at a distance!) to help those in need. It makes me very proud to be a life-long Alachua County resident!
In the end, we are all working toward ensuring the success of every student, even in these difficult and unprecedented times. Please reach out to us at any time. We are here to help you.
Stay well and Go Gators!
Karen Clarke, Superintendent
Alachua County Public Schools