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First Day Of E-Learning In Broward County Sees Enrollment Drop

Broward County Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie with two school board members:
NBC 6 South Florida
Broward County Superintendent of Schools, Robert Runcie, center, with two school board members: Donna Korn, left, and Dr. Rosalind Osgood, right.

Broward County Public Schools said Wednesday it was expecting about a 2,500 drop in students compared to last year. Instead the drop in enrollment was close to 7,000 students across the district.

Wednesday was the first day of a new school year in Broward County. All online.

Fewer children reported for school than last year, before the pandemic hit. For students that did start school in the district, some reported issues logging on to the e-learning platform this morning.

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Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters there was an issue letting everyone in at once, but the technology issue was resolved in less than a half hour.

"There are some reports of glitches, I think that's somewhat exaggerated," Runcie said. "There was a period when high school students came on and there was a heavy load trying to log on the system at the same time. That was resolved very quickly."

That happened between 8:35 and 8:50 a.m.

By 1 p.m. Wednesday the district estimates there were about 197,000 students and teachers logged on to the e-learning system at the same time.

Some teachers also noticed technical issues while trying to teach over the internet, like Sarah Lerner who teaches at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The district also saw a decline in enrollment that was about 4,500 students more than expected, according to Runcie. The district is down nearly 7,000 students compared to the first day of school last year — before the pandemic hit.

"We believe that number is definitely pandemic related — folks exercising other options," he said, including things like home schooling. "In district schools the largest drop we saw was in kindergarten."

Kindergarteners made up approximately 21 percent of the total drop in enrollment, but the district is watching to see if those numbers hold true as the week continues.

Runcie said the school district will continue to provide laptops, low-cost internet and free hotspots to students that need them. District leaders will monitor the COVID-19 situation every two weeks as they consider plans to reopen for in-person instruction.

In the meantime, there are no fall sports for students in Broward County as the district considers itself in "phase zero," according to Runcie.

When Broward schools can reopen for in-person learning, the Broward School District expects to receive a portion of $30 million the state has allocated to personal protective equipment for K-12 schools in Florida.

Runcie said he anticipates about $2.6 million in funding from that pot for PPE across the district, despite the state estimating revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19.

"Those are much-needed dollars," Runcie said. "We will need the continued diligence, discipline and support from our community ... so that we can get the infection rates down in Broward County and contain the spread of the coronavirus. That will put us in the best position to open our campuses."

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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