Okeechobee schools to start Aug. 17

OKEECHOBEE- Students in Okeechobee will be starting the school year one week later than originally planned.

At their meeting on July 23 The Okeechobee County School Board approved a plan to move the school start date from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17.

The move was recommended by superintendent Ken Kenworthy and will allow more time for preplanning. The one week delay will still allow the first semester to end at Christmas.

It also preserves the district’s payroll schedule and retains new hires access to health insurance, which is crucial in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district also provided more guidance on their mask policy ahead of the new year. Surgical masks, scarfs, bandanas and fishing buffs all meet the district’s requirement.

Prohibited face coverings include any mask that has holes in the nose or mouth, coverings made of mesh, masks that are worn to purposefully cover the entire face to conceal identity such as a Halloween mask, and any covering containing a symbol that would be inappropriate.

Face coverings will only be required when social distancing is not feasible.

“The district is using an educational approach to emphasize the merits of the mandate,” read the district’s guidance on consequences for not wearing a mask. “The younger the student, the more education may be required. Older students should be more responsible and need less education. Disciplinary consequences may be administered at the principal’s discretion based on age and number of infractions.”

If a student has repeated infractions they may be transferred to one of the online distance learning options the district is providing.

Students that have medical issues or certain disabilities may be exempt from wearing a mask. To qualify for an exemption the student must have a note from their doctor.

School Board members heard registration numbers from the three options given to parents last week.

Back at the July 14 Okeechobee County School Board meeting parents learned that they would have three options to choose from this coming school year. Option one would have students attend school in a traditional face-to-face setting, option two would have students follow along live with their classes online in a program called Okeechobee Sync, and in option three students attend the Okeechobee Virtual School.

A total of 5,995 students have now been registered. Of the nearly 6,000 registered 3,088 chose option one, 1,477 chose option two, and 1,430 chose option three.

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