Palm Beach County private school leaders say a lot of parents want their kids back in classrooms.
Private school classrooms will reopen this month, but unlike public schools, parents will have a choice between in person and online learning for their children.
"About 80 percent of our parents want their children back in class. There is a high level of pandemic fatigue," said Michelle Olson-Rogers, director of communications and community outreach at Grandview Preparatory School in Boca Raton.
The pre-K through 12th-grade school plans to open Aug. 19. Like other private schools, Grandview’s 270 students have the option to attend in person or remotely.
Meanwhile, remote-only classes for Palm Beach County’s 174,000 public school students start Aug. 31. The new timeline bumps back the final day of public school classes by three weeks, from May 28 to June 18.
Online-only classes finished off the last months of the school year after the pandemic hit in March. They drew many complaints from students, teachers and parents.
Flickering Wi-Fi hookups, annoying emojis and wandering eyes from students have hampered learning from home, according to teachers, students and parents.
Countywide, private schools are requiring masks. Water fountains will be off. Windows and doors will be open. Some schools have new air filter systems.
Constant hand washing, temperature checks and social distancing will be in place when private schools swing open their classroom doors.
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"Everybody must adapt. We are pivoting right now to respectfully meet everybody’s needs," said Cara Hansen, marketing and communications director for Rosarian Academy on North Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.
Rosarian’s 365 students expect to return Aug. 26.
Students at Rosarian, Grandview, Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Tequesta and other private schools will encounter changes big and small.
* Single desks, spaced 6 feet apart, replace round tables in Rosarian classrooms.
* Grandview plans outdoor classes on picnic tables, with a shade shelter and fans. An oversize chess set and basketball courts were built to encourage outdoor activity.
* Hallways will be one way at the two Benjamin School campuses when they open Aug. 18. Classes will be between 12 and 16 students.
* Touchless faucets and soap dishes are new at the 50-student St. David’s Episcopal School in Wellington. The first day is Aug. 10.
* The Gulf Stream School invited parents in to inspect their new air purification system. "If there is a virus in the area, it destroys it," according to a school press release.
* No visitors or volunteers will be allowed in most private schools. Cafeterias, students’ traditional Grand Central Station, are closed for dining.
"The attitude of faculty, students and parents is upbeat. They are ready to get back to class," said Dr. Rosemary Marshall, head of school of the 125-student Good Shepherd Episcopal School. Classes there start Aug. 17.
After a recent survey of 3,700 parents and school employees, the Diocese of Palm Beach decided to resume online and remote classes Aug. 24. The urvey showed 50 percent favored in-person classes. That was down from 74 percent in a survey done in June.
Diocese teachers will report on Aug. 10 "to be trained on sanitation and safety procedures already implemented at each school, along with the myriad of other orientation topics that are addressed at the beginning of an academic year," according to a press release from Gary Gelo, superintendent of schools for the diocese.
Schools operated by the diocese include All Saints School in Jupiter and Cardinal Newman High.
Changes brought by the pandemic appear to have more parents looking at private and charter schools. Interest spiked July 22 when the Palm Beach County District Superintendent Donald Fennoy announced online classes only, said private school leaders.
"Not all parents have the luxury of staying home," said Olson-Rogers from Grandview. Remote and in-person classes start Aug. 19.
Private school leaders stressed that students have the option of attending either in person or online.
"The majority of our parents have opted for on-campus learning. Those who choose our remote learning program have the ability to come back to campus at various re-entry dates throughout the school year, providing added flexibility to our families," David C. Faus, Benjamin head of school, said in an email.
More flexibility at smaller campuses is the reason more people are attending and considering private schools, according to private school leaders.
"It’s easier for private, smaller schools to adjust," said Kathy Van Damas, principal at St. David’s in Wellington, which serves about 50 students between pre-K and second grade.