‘It’s still pretty scary out here’ Parents, community members calling for return of Duval Homeroom

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Right now, parents are preparing for their kids to return to school in Duval County on Tuesday.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole spoke to some parents today who said the delta variant has them feeling really concerned.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the delta variant is highly contagious, nearly twice as contagious as previous variants.

On Tuesday afternoon, UF Health told Cole they had 259 patients being treated for COVID-19, 58 being treated in the ICU and 2 pediatric patients.

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“I have three high schoolers and one middle schooler. So it’s still scary, tough decision to make and time is up today.”

It’s an up-to-the-minute decision for Steve Jackson. He said he, along with his kids, have managed to stay COVID-19 free. But, he’s concerned about what could happen when they return to school.

Jackson said his kids have not been able to get vaccinated yet.

“I just want everyone to stay safe, not as my family, but everybody,” Jackson said.

William Smith said his three kids did distance learning and that was pretty tough. He told Cole two of his kids will be returning to Anchor Academy and the third one will be returning to Mayport Middle School.

“They’ve been in the house too long, a whole year. It’s about that time. But it’s still pretty scary out here still,” Smith told Action News Jax.

Smith said most parents have to work, so it was more of a challenge to keep the kids focused when they participated in distance learning. “It’s hard to get a kid to sit at a table for eight hours a whole day. You know what I mean? It’s just a lot tougher, they don’t have a hands-on training.”

Right now, parents in Duval County can either

  • Send their kids back to a brick-and-mortar school in person

OR

  • Enroll them in Duval Virtual Instruction Academy, DVIA.

DVIA is a full-time virtual option that does not allow students to return in-person during the duration of the school year.

Right now, there’s a petition on Change.org, with more than 750 signatures, calling for Duval Homeroom to become an option for students.

Members of a group called The Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team are also calling for the Duval Homeroom option to return.

Duval Homeroom was a virtual option that allowed students to remain enrolled at their schools while taking courses from home.

Here’s how Jackson told Cole he thinks the return to school should be handled.

“Hybrid, distance, or just straight up homeschooling until every single kid is vaccinated. And we know that every kid is vaccinated. For their safety and the parents.”

Duval County Public Schools said as of today 130,547 students are returning for in-person learning. That number includes charter schools. Since this story aired, the district has since updated this figure. They now say the total number of students expected to return is 127,108. (This figure still includes charter school students.)

2600 students enrolled in DVIA.

STORY: School Resource Officers in Nassau County train for safe return to school

As for why Duval Homeroom went away, DCPS told Cole the option was funded under a state emergency order, but that order has expired.

Today is the last day parents can enroll their children in DVIA.