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Jefferson County's Somerset Academy Works Out Kinks In School Reopening Plans

School buses are parked near each other outside a school building.
Robbie Gaffney
On Monday, students returned to school in Jefferson County.

Jefferson County reopened its school doors to students yesterday. It's Florida's only charter school district with K-12 consolidated on one campus. Before entering a five-year contract with Somerset Academy, the district's schools had historically low grades. Principal Cory Oliver is in charge of improving those grades. He says COVID-19 will undoubtedly affect his students.

"It's absolutely going to impact grades. I just don't know in what way," Oliver says.

Oliver is concerned about how COVID-19 will impact students beyond just their grades.

"We're not even discussing what's happening to them socially and emotionally. That social and emotional piece is so important in the development of children, and we already know how dangerous a ton of screen time is," Oliver says.

Oliver explains the first day came with a few bumps. The district had to recall about 75 school-issued iPads after students couldn't access virtual classrooms.

"We redistributed laptops to those families today. So, it wasn't a major issue, but it was not perfect, which is what we were hoping we could get close to on the first day," Oliver says.

Oliver explains a third-party server adjustment over the weekend caused remote live instruction on Monday to be delayed, but he says that it was resolved. Somerset Academy is considering whether it should buy more Wi-Fi hotspots for students who live in areas without a reliable internet connection to support online learning. As for traditional in-person schooling, he says lunch is taking longer than usual but says his team is working to fix that.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.