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FAMU DRS Delays First Day Of School Until August 31

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Florida A&M Developmental Research School is delaying the start of its school year to August 31.

The lab school, which is run by the university and operates as a district of its own, originally planned to resume classes next Wednesday, August 19.

Allyson Watson, a board member for the lab school and dean of FAMU’s College of Education, announced the change during a Zoom call Thursday morning, pushing for a delay to the start date. She says the later date “will ensure that FAMU DRS is well prepared to receive students, accommodate staff and faculty, and continue to adhere to the recommended safety guidelines and procedures as recommended from the (CDC).”

Shanetta Ligon, a teacher at the school whose children are students at FAMU DRS, was on the Zoom call.

“Where traditionally brick and mortar would normally represent safety, we can’t really guarantee that for our students – for my children and myself – at this moment,” Ligon said. “So, for those reason, I definitely believe that it is not the wisest thing for us to return to that environment at this time.”

Several other FAMU DRS teachers and parents joined Ligon on the call, expressing anxiety at returning to classes next week. Fedrick Ingram, president of statewide teachers union the Florida Education Association, also joined the call to support the school’s delayed return to classes. The FEA is suing the state Department of Education over its reopen order in Leon County court.

Tallahassee city commissioner Jeremy Matlow also lent his voice to the effort.

Roscoe Hightower is president of United Faculty of Florida’s FAMU chapter. He’s also a professor and chair in FAMU’s College of Business and Industry.

Hightower blasted the Department of Education’s order requiring brick and mortar schools to open before the end of August. He says per-student funding shouldn’t be threatened, should schools decide not to open physical classrooms.

“Tying FTE dollars to the executive order has pitted administrators and educators against each other, especially at cash-strapped districts like FAMU’s Developmental Research School,” Hightower said.

State education commissioner Richard Corcoran maintains his order isn’t implementing any new rules, but upholding state statute that says schools must operate at least 180 days per year.

Tallahassee’s other university-run lab school, Florida State University School, will begin distance learning for all students August 19, and begin in-person instruction August 31. That’s the same day Leon County Schools are scheduled to begin the school year.