Bay County, Gulf County, & Tindall Air Force Military Base Schools

Updated May 15, 2019

Educating during extended emergencies

Panhandle of Florida

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall onto the panhandle of Florida with sustained wind speeds of 155 mph, leaving extensive damage in its wake. Because of the devastation to schools in local areas, including Bay County, Gulf County, and an elementary school on the Tindall Air Force Base, students were unable to return to classes for weeks or months in some cases. For military families, the situation was even more challenging, as families were required per guidelines related to family safety to relocate at least 50 miles from the targeted area. The response scattered families to states as far away as Texas, California, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma, separating them from their home school. Loss of learning time was a major concern and made the need to find a learning solution for all affected students more urgent.

Parents had a choice of enrolling their children in another school, but because the situation was already overwhelming, most parents did not want to have to go through the process of transferring records. Additionally, the school records themselves were lost, damaged, or unavailable while hurricane-affected schools were in the process of recovering for student re-entry. Rian Meadows, District Relations Manager for Florida Virtual School (FLVS) who oversees 20 counties and their respective school districts in Northern Florida, which included the hardest hit areas, reached out to her contacts to see how FLVS could help.

To start, Meadows fielded communications from families and schools to understand the situations. As she built a needs-assessment of the general area, the FLVS team worked out a multi-step solution, featured in the numbered list below, for students who needed virtual course enrollments or full-time virtual enrollment for the remainder of the fall semester until their local school re-opened, or for the remainder of the school year:

  1. A “help ticket” system was used for each registering student, allowing all teams that needed to provide support or follow-up to keep the registration process running smoothly.

  2. Students were registered into courses by school counselors, the enrollment team, school leaders, and even Meadows herself as needed, using the K–12 Courses and Graduation guide and whatever student data was available to guide FLVS course assignments.

  3. FLVS teachers reached out to students by phone and used digital “live lesson” rooms in Blackboard to assess student learning progress already made in the course, so that they could “skip” students over lessons and concepts where students could demonstrate mastery.

  4. For students who elected to return to their local school district, students’ courses and grades were transferred back to their local schools at the end of Fall or Spring semester.

An estimated 1,000 students from the affected communities were enrolled in FLVS courses following the hurricane and were able to continue their education on-pace. Of special note were the handful of high school seniors who would have lost their early entry into small private colleges had FLVS not offered them a full-time enrollment option that continued their path towards graduation.

This profile was developed through correspondence with Rian Meadows of FLVS and through information from Weather.gov, the Ed Week blog, and FLVS website.

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