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Most Pasco families ready for remote learning, district survey shows

Pinellas, Hillsborough schools also taking stock of resources.
 
Dan Lafferty, a teacher with Florida Virtual School, is seen on a student's laptop as they video conference at the student's home. Such interactions might become more common if schools decide to close because of coronavirus and depend on e-learning to keep classes going.
Dan Lafferty, a teacher with Florida Virtual School, is seen on a student's laptop as they video conference at the student's home. Such interactions might become more common if schools decide to close because of coronavirus and depend on e-learning to keep classes going. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published March 12, 2020|Updated March 12, 2020

With coronavirus-related school closures now in their backyard, Tampa Bay area school districts are more closely assessing exactly what student needs would be should they turn to distance learning.

Pasco County surveyed more than 59,000 families on Wednesday to help officials decide how they might need to proceed. With a 23 percent response rate, the district found that most students are well situated to deal with online coursework, if necessary.

Just less than 88 percent said they had access to a computer in their home, with 93 percent responding that they have access to the internet.

“What this tells us is, if we’re going to e-learning, nine of 10 are going to be able to work with us,” Pasco district spokesman Steve Hegarty said.

Related: If coronavirus closes Florida schools, how will kids learn?

District leaders are digging more deeply into the results, he continued, to see where any deficits might exist. That way the district can focus its resources in the most needing areas.

“We’re going to run the survey again tonight” to get more data, Hegarty said, noting the district can exclude duplicate responses.

Pasco is not alone in seeking information to help know where students might need to borrow devices, internet hotspots or other technology.

The Pinellas County school district conducted similar surveys in the past, to help support technology and Title I grants, spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas said. Those inquiries have regularly found that 75 percent to 90 percent of students have what they need for doing online school work at home, she said.

“For those that do not have it, we have the WIFI and the tablets to provide,” Mascareñas said.

Hillsborough County schools have not conducted any surveys. The district has, however, begun investigating ways to get laptops, air cards and other technology to students who might need them, acting superintendent Addison Davis said in an email.

He said the district planned to send a message to all parents with more details by the end of Friday.

Yet to be determined is what the online work might look like. The local districts suggested that, at least to start, the model might consist primarily of students retrieving assignments online and then submitting them electronically.

At some point, they are looking into more interactive lessons where teachers would lead live courses and hold “office hours” where students could correspond with them. That depends on how well trained both teachers and students could be, in what could prove a very short response time.

Experts have said that poorly prepared online courses would be of little benefit. The Pasco district has told teachers it will offer some training in distance learning on the Monday after they return from spring break.

Gathering the student information is an important first step, Hegarty said.

“We need to see what the landscape is,” he said. “We hope we don’t have to do this at all. We’re just trying to be prepared.”