Students head back to school, elementary school opens in Viera

The path for students in Brevard Public Schools was uneven, full of directional arrows and filled with uncertainty as classes for the 2020-2021 school year began Aug. 24.

Some students took the bus to school. Others stayed at home as fear of COVID-19 made virtual classes an appealing choice.

The first day of instruction came two weeks later than the original start date of Aug. 10.

"We’ve been running about a 30 to 40 percent rate of students choosing e-Learning, 60 to 70 percent of our students choosing face-to-face learning,’’ said Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins. "Of course, parents are changing their mind as we’ve gotten closer to the school year and even as recent as today (Aug. 24). Some parents are choosing to bring their children back to brick and mortar and others (are) wanting to reconsider the e-Learning option."

Mullins used an example of students attending the new Viera Elementary School.

"They’re (students) going to see a lot of the very same things that they would have in a normal school year," Mullins said. "Some of the things that are different are the expectations of directional arrows of where we walk. The routines into the cafeteria are going to be a little bit different as we separate students to increase social distancing. But, by and large, our kids, you know, they’re tremendously resilient. Our staff is extremely resourceful. They’ve done an amazing job of putting structures in place to accommodate kids as they return to school and it’s really gotten off to a good start."

Mullins also said BPS was providing "flexibility to our families" with respect to parents potentially switching their child’s learning options.

"We would just ask that they just reach out to their child’s school, talk with the administration," Mullins said. "Right now, it’s difficult to adjust on a day-to-day basis. But, we certainly want our parents to remain connected with us. If there are parents out there that haven’t registered their student yet, we need you to connect with your school. We want to reach out to you, answer your questions and work with you to get your child registered for school and get them engaged with their school. Whether it’s e-Learning or it’s in person."

In general though, Mullins said things were running relatively smoothly on the first day.

"Really, by and large, it’s all good," Mullins said. "We’ve had some technology glitches. Our Zoom provider — their services went down for a period of time. But, we’re working through that and we’ve got some of the normal first of the school year issues to work through. Class sizes, staffing and those kind of things, but nothing out of the ordinary. Very pleased with the tremendous preparation that our administrators worked so hard all summer for to ensure a smooth start to the school year."

Mullins also noted how enthused he was for the opening of the new school.

"It’s a very exciting time for Brevard Schools (that) we’re able to open a new elementary school," Mullins added. "It’s been many years, about 10 years since we’ve opened a new school. So, I think it’s a sign of positivity and growth in our community and meeting the needs of the growing community here in Viera so very excited to launch this school this year.

Mulins added that the presence of the new Viera Elementary School would help to alleviate crowding at other area schools.

"If you look at our other elementary schools in the area, Manatee, Quest, Ralph Williams, all of those schools have been growing and expanding,’’ Mullins said. "And, Quest particularly, not far away, has really far exceeded its capacity. So, this is going to begin to provide balance in our schools to make sure that we can provide all the resources we want to and that our kids deserve in our elementary schools.’’