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School Superintendents Ask State For Specific 'Conditions' Districts Should Meet Before Reopening

Assistant principal Rachel Jones, left, and paraprofessional Sheila Stills pass out tablet devices to students at Dr. N.E. Roberts Elementary School, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Lakeland, Fla. Polk County Schools are passing out the devices so students can continue their education online. Schools statewide are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Assistant principal Rachel Jones, left, and paraprofessional Sheila Stills pass out tablet devices to students at Dr. N.E. Roberts Elementary School, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Lakeland, Fla. Polk County Schools are passing out the devices so students can continue their education online. Schools statewide are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The call for defined guidelines from the state on what steps will be needed to reopen schools is now coming from district superintendents.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents wants specific guidance on things like student-to-teacher ratio, what to do for large gatherings like lunch and recess, and how many students can ride buses at one time. It also wants a list of personal protective items that must be in each classroom.

Michael Grego is superintendent for Pinellas County Schools, and is on the Association’s board of directors. He discussed the organization’s request during Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting.

We know there is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty, but having statewide parameters and conditions allows the districts, then, to truly plan for local context,” Grego told the board.

Consideration also needs to be given to older teachers and those in high risk populations, as well as students with special needs, the superintendents outlined in their request.

“I believe there needs to be some state-level conditions. What those conditions look like on an individual district basis from Broward to Gilchrist County, or Pinellas to Pasco county, might be somewhat different – but they’re guidelines,” Grego continued later during the telephonic meeting. “And those guidelines then, we need to quickly securer and provide materials that are needed.”

The group is also urging all districts to create “K-12 pandemic response teams,” including healthcare professionals, to make recommendations tailored to local needs.

Divided into two sections, the document presented to the state education board lists what conditions the Association wants set forth for reopening, as well as best practices for when campuses open up again. Among the suggestions is daily screenings:

“Daily screening and/or rapid testing protocols for entry of students, families, staff and visitors that include temperature checks each day,” the document reads, adding “onsite nursing staff at each school building to guide and oversee screenings.”

Statewide prerequisites for schools to reopen is something Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran called for on Governor Ron DeSantis "Reopen Florida" task force.

“You open up and you have a classroom – what’s our space capacity keeping kids six feet apart? Are lunches given in a classroom as opposed to having too many kids in a cafeteria,” Corcoran said during a task force meeting in April. “All that specific instruction that you guys were talking about on the first part of the call – we want to give that specific instruction to our education community.”

Corcoran issued a wide-ranging order Wednesday that, among other things, delays the expiration of certain teaching licenses through the end of July. The board's next meeting is scheduled for July 15.

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