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First Day Of E-Learning In Broward County Sees Enrollment Drop

Wednesday was the first day of a new school year in Broward County. All online.

Fewer children reported for school than last year, before the pandemic hit. For students that did start school in the district, some reported issues logging on to the e-learning platform this morning.

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Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters there was an issue letting everyone in at once, but the technology issue was resolved in less than a half hour.

"There are some reports of glitches, I think that's somewhat exaggerated," Runcie said. "There was a period when high school students came on and there was a heavy load trying to log on the system at the same time. That was resolved very quickly."

That happened between 8:35 and 8:50 a.m.

By 1 p.m. Wednesday the district estimates there were about 197,000 students and teachers logged on to the e-learning system at the same time.

Some teachers also noticed technical issues while trying to teach over the internet, like Sarah Lerner who teaches at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The district also saw a decline in enrollment that was about 4,500 students more than expected, according to Runcie. The district is down nearly 7,000 students compared to the first day of school last year — before the pandemic hit.

"We believe that number is definitely pandemic related — folks exercising other options," he said, including things like home schooling. "In district schools the largest drop we saw was in kindergarten."

Kindergarteners made up approximately 21 percent of the total drop in enrollment, but the district is watching to see if those numbers hold true as the week continues.

Runcie said the school district will continue to provide laptops, low-cost internet and free hotspots to students that need them. District leaders will monitor the COVID-19 situation every two weeks as they consider plans to reopen for in-person instruction.

In the meantime, there are no fall sports for students in Broward County as the district considers itself in "phase zero," according to Runcie.

When Broward schools can reopen for in-person learning, the Broward School District expects to receive a portion of $30 million the state has allocated to personal protective equipment for K-12 schools in Florida.

Runcie said he anticipates about $2.6 million in funding from that pot for PPE across the district, despite the state estimating revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19.

"Those are much-needed dollars," Runcie said. "We will need the continued diligence, discipline and support from our community ... so that we can get the infection rates down in Broward County and contain the spread of the coronavirus. That will put us in the best position to open our campuses."

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.