Alachua County School Board Postpones Reopening To Aug. 31


On Wednesday afternoon, the Alachua County School Board voted to delay the start of fall reopening — again. This is the second time the district has postponed the start of school since July.

Last month, the school board moved reopening from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24. Today’s postponement moved the date from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31.

The goal of the motion, as reasoned by Board Member Gunnar Paulson, was to allow the district to play catch-up on logistics and grant teachers an extension for training in virtual software, like Canvas by Instructure. With the start of school moved back one week, teachers’ pre-planning days will now run from Aug. 24 to Aug. 28 without compensation for the additional training days.

At 1:30 p.m., the members passed a 3-2 vote officially delaying the school district’s reopening to the end of the month.

Before arriving at the action item of the meeting, the five-member school board received an advisory presentation from a council of local medical professionals, reviewed the P.K. Yonge Laboratory School model and was briefed on both the viability of challenging the governor’s authority over local school districts and what CARES Act relief funding might look for public school employees in fall.

The initial action item, as recommended by Superintendent Karen Clarke, read:

“The Superintendent recommends the Board determine whether it will proceed with the full-time traditional brick and mortar option to begin August 24, 2020, as described in the Alachua County Public School’s Florida Optional Innovative Reopening Plan as previously approved by the School Board.”

After hearing the item, Paulson pushed to stay with the brick-and-mortar schooling option as part of the board’s previously approved plan, in addition to amending the reopening date of schools to be Aug. 31, instead of Aug. 24.

By a 5-0 vote, all members of the board favored his initial motion.

By the final vote, that was not the case.

After a 30-minute public comment period and unorganized debate — despite efforts of district legal counsel David Delaney to maintain quasi-judicial order — two additional amendments to the motion failed.

District 4 member, Leanetta McNealy, who is up for reelection on next week’s primary ballot, vocally dissented reopening brick-and-mortar schools whatsoever, leaning into the microphone with a mask slung from her ear. If the district must reopen in-person schooling, however, she wanted to see a week of full pay allocated to instructors for the extra week of virtual training, currently unplanned in the district budget.

This would total $2.3 million, according to Alex Rella, assistant superintendent for business services.

In a budget compromise, McNealy then proposed two extra paid training days for teachers in lieu of the full week extension in which no one would be compensated.

Her amendment failed, again, in a 2-3 vote, the reciprocal tally of the motion that passed and still stands: The school district will postpone reopening to Aug. 31, a week later than initially decided. Pre-planning days will be Aug. 24-28. There is no current plan to compensate instructors for the training overtime.

About Gabriella Paul

Gabriella Paul is a reporter for WUFT. She can be reached at

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