With the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, there is no reason why Broward County Public School students should resume face-to-face instruction during the coronavirus pandemic.
After completing an entire month of online school, the Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie was pressured by the state to reopen schools quickly in order to receive state funding. It was announced that third, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth graders will return to physical school campuses on Oct. 13 and seventh, eighth, 10th, 11th and 12th graders will return on Oct. 15.
Students who choose to return back to school campuses are required to wear a face covering for the entirety of the day, only taking it off for lunch. Due to current COVID-19 guidelines, there can only be a maximum of 10-12 students per classroom, depending on the class size.
By now, everyone knows the struggle of having to wear a mask every place they go, so imagine if all students and administration were required to wear one for over seven hours. Many people would complain about how it’s difficult to breathe and that it itches their face. This may prompt students to try to take off their masks, which would endanger teachers and students nearby. For elementary and Pre-K aged students, how can they be expected to wear a face mask for the whole day?
What about people who forget their masks? Will they be turned away and forced to go home? There is still so much that we don’t know about what school will look like for returning students.
With all the guidelines that are in place for the returning students and administration, it is very likely that many things will go wrong. For example, there may be too many kids in one classroom and students could become irritated that they still have to learn virtually, just from another location, and disrupt the class.
There are many unanswered operational questions. What will lunch look like? Will clubs meet in person, since sports are beginning in-person practices. How will class changes work? How will arrival and dismissal work?
If the school is only allowed to have one-third of the students in the building all together, what will happen if more kids choose to return to school once it reopens? How will the administration pick which lucky person gets to go back to school, and who is not because there is simply not enough space for them? How will overflow rooms work? Who decides who goes to the overflow room and who stays in the actual classroom?
Until there is a vaccine that is widely used, there is no guarantee that it is safe to send students back to school. A vaccine will minimize the chances for infecting others, which is why it is important to have one before school returns back to normal.
Today, Florida has had over 712,000 coronavirus cases in total. If students were not allowed to attend school in March when the number of cases was substantially lower, it is not in anyone’s best interest to let students and teachers return to school when the cases are so high in the state of Florida alone.
When we send students back to school, we risk starting a never-ending cycle of opening and closing schools, ending with the possible quarantine of an entire student body. Samoset Elementary School in Bradenton, Florida was planning on opening for the start of the new school year, but one of the employees contracted COVID-19, resulting in the use of online school so far this year. Cherokee County, Georgia, a state with less than half of the total cases in Florida, had to close all of the schools that they reopened because one middle school student, two elementary school students and one kindergarten teacher tested positive for the virus.
Teachers have already notified their students that if we do end up going back to school soon, the kids that will be attending school face-to-face will still have to do school from Microsoft Teams. Students that choose to go back to school will need to bring their own computers. Students and teachers will likely need to wear headphones all day in order to decrease the noise disturbance within the classroom, so what will happen if students forget their headphones or their computer is dying?
There simply is no justifiable reason as to why schools should return to in-person sessions. The amount of COVID-19 cases in Florida is still extremely high and it would be dangerous to let students and teachers congregate. There is still so much that we don’t know about transitioning from remote learning back to face-to-face learning. Those who choose to attend school again are at a heightened risk of contracting the virus more than they would have if they continued to do school from home for just a few more months.