Broward County Public Schools Department in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Photo and Caption: YES Market Media/Shutterstock.com
During a virtual school board meeting on Tuesday morning, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie has announced a date for when he would like to reopen schools to students and teachers. Runcie said October 5 is a more feasible date to reopen school campuses for in-person learning. The superintendent also took advantage during the virtual school board meeting to thank teachers for their hard work and dedication during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We plan to recommend to the school board that we open our schools starting Monday, October 5,” he said.
Runcie credits recent downward trends in coronavirus figures and other factors as the reason for making a move to reinstate in-person learning.
Runcie said he wants to limit the number of students on campus to less than 50 to ensure the district has adequate personal protective equipment and can space out students.
Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said teachers haven’t been provided with a clear idea of what schools and classrooms will be like, how they will be cleaned, what the protocols will be, or what personal protective equipment will be provided to teachers.
Runcie said that students on campus will have to wear masks, will still submit homework electronically, and said that there will be no science labs in classrooms.
COVID-19 cases are still rising by the day, concerning parents, teachers and students alike. School Board member Patti Good expressed concerns during the summer while many coronavirus cases were rising fast. Many teachers are also worried about returning to class if students have underlying conditions, Good said. She asked if those teachers could receive extra pay for taking on this challenge, an idea Runcie said he was open to.
Back in July, while restrictions were being looked into to be eased, Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said a survey found about 30% of teachers said they would be willing to return to actual classrooms. She asked the district to tap into those teachers before mandating ones to return if they have health concerns.
An alternative to this, teachers say, will be to go on leave. Many teachers hoped to continue working at home teaching students who were also staying home. Or, if that was not possible, at least be allowed to take what would likely be an unpaid leave of absence, without much information about how safe schools will be. Initially, they were told they must respond by Friday, September 18.
Many parents have complained that online learning, while improved since last spring, is still inferior to face-to-face instruction. They also say it creates a hardship for working parents who must stay home to supervise their children. Unfortunately for these parents, though, online learning will still be a reality for the foreseeable future.
While parents will have the choice to keep their kids at home or send them to school, the curriculum will be the same. Teachers will teach simultaneously to students at home and those with their laptops in the classroom.
The final decision to reopen schools back up is up to the School Board, which will discuss the matter September 22.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.