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Survey: Parents And Teachers Remain Conflicted About Schools Reopening

Children in a classroom

Florida school districts have begun to release their plans to bring students back to school in August amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, Florida, as well as the Tampa Bay area, posted record high daily increases in new cases of COVID-19.  

WUSF asked about your thoughts on this issue: How Should Florida Schools Proceed With Reopening In The Fall? Here are some of your responses.

'We are seeing what happens when all the restaurants and bars open. Now some of them are closing again,” said parent Taylor Corona. “We need to listen to the medical leaders on this, not political ones.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE: See How Tampa Bay Area Schools Might Open In The Fall

A big concern for parents is the inability of students to social distance and the fact that, in many models school districts are considering, masks will not be required.

Families are also afraid that children will carry the disease home to elderly relatives and other immunocompromised people.

“Students are horrible at social distancing and good health practices,” said parent Ernest Gray. “They will catch this virus and spread it to their families and school personnel. Opening schools will be like pouring gas on a fire.”

In a school board workshop on Tuesday, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said the district will be providing three reusable masks to each student and teacher.

But some teachers are concerned that schools will not be able to provide enough supplies to sanitize classrooms per CDC guidelines.

“Schools do not have the money to give us cleaning supplies.  I have to bring my students pencils and paper daily,” said teacher -- and parent -- Jackie Martin. “Now I have to supply my own Clorox wipes too?  I can't even find them on the shelves at the store!”

While some parents want their children to return to traditional face-to-face classrooms, they said they are not willing to do so at the expense of others. They prefer having options and letting parents decide what is best for their family.

“I would not feel comfortable sending my kids back without strict guidelines in place, but I’m especially concerned for teachers, kids who live with older caretakers, kids with health issues,” said Amy Nance.

“Masks have got to be a thing. Temperature checks and smaller classes, same. This is an incredible moment to teach our kids about civic responsibility and accountability.”

State and local leaders have been pointing to the disadvantages of forcing students to stay at home, citing childcare issues, education gaps, and the toll isolation could have on a child’s mental health.

Maria Galdona, a teacher and speech therapist, agrees. She said students with disabilities are at the highest risk of not having their needs met if kept at home.

“Dangers exist in the levels of stress in families where parents are having to both work remotely and assist students with assignments, or are having to cut hours or quit jobs to care for their children,” she said.

“Suicide, abuse, and financial stressors are very real dangers that are exacerbated by the isolation being posed with schools shutting down.”

As of Thursday, more than 4,800 children under the age of 14 have tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida. But with just over 100 children hospitalized and only two deaths statewide under the age of 18, parent and teacher Liz Sandberg said not returning to school poses a greater risk.

“For their mental health and social skills, in addition to their education, school does so, so much that we cannot do from a distance during these formative years,” she said.

Karissa Burke is a parent of an incoming kindergartener in Sarasota County. She said students should be able to go back to school with no masks or social distancing requirements.

“Requiring children to refrain from being around other children, playing, socializing, is a punishment,” she said. “Children are at extremely low risk for COVID, as is transmission from child to adult. There is absolutely no good reason to have draconian measures in place for children in school.”

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Alysia Cruz is the WUSF Stephen Noble news intern for the fall 2019 semester. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida in Communication and is now enrolled at USF St. Petersburg, pursuing her Master’s in Digital Journalism & Design concentrating on food writing.
I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.