Around this time of the summer, families are usually counting down the days until the first day back to school. This year, that’s going to look a lot different. COVID-19 school closures in Polk and Hillsborough counties began in March and there still seems to be no consensus on how or when to reopen them.
Children ages 0-14 years old account for about 5% of coronavirus cases in Florida at this time. We are currently seeing that children do not experience as severe of an illness as adults do, but they can still be carriers of the virus. With cases rising each day and Florida as the new epicenter of the pandemic, teachers and parents have valid concerns about returning to school.
The Florida Education Commissioner issued a controversial order last week demanding that schools reopen in August. School districts are now taking this into their own hands to do what they feel is right for their own students and teachers.
When Will Polk County Schools Reopen?
Polk County currently ranks ninth out of 67 Florida counties for the number of COVID-19 cases. This week the Polk County School Board voted unanimously to delay the start of school two weeks to August 24. The school superintendent says that they made this decision based on the advice of the Polk County Health Department Director.
Parents and teachers received a questionnaire asking if they felt more comfortable with their children returning to brick-and-mortar schools, attending virtual school, or a hybrid of both methods. The majority of people were in favor of face-to-face schooling. However, many said that they fear for the safety of teachers and students. Several even gathered at the school board meeting to protest reopening.
When Has Hillsborough County Decided to Reopen?
Hillsborough County is currently seated at fourth in the state for coronavirus cases. Teachers and parents gathered outside their school board meeting to protest what they feel is a premature return. Their superintendent agreed to push the start date back two weeks to August 24 as well. As with the Polk County School District, Hillsborough school leadership will be working side by side with local medical experts to create and execute their plans.
The superintendent did announce that teachers will continue to be paid as normal regardless of their reopening decision. Hillsborough schools will also plan on ending the school year on time, although this may affect the usual school calendar.
Other Concerns to Address
The main motivation for returning to in-person schooling is to offer higher quality education to students. Teachers train more for face-to-face education than virtual, and all school districts may not have the time or resources to train their teachers before August. Schools will have to find ways to motivate students as well, since some students feel that virtual education hinders learning.
Other areas of concern include transportation and extracurricular activities. Thousands of students rely on school buses to get to school, but buses do not allow for both efficiency and social distancing. Many students are also involved in extracurricular activities like band, drama, community service clubs, and athletics. If schools allow these activities, extra precautions will need to be taken.
Our offices at Brooks Law Group continue to follow social distancing guidelines and increased sanitation recommendations. We hope for the best for you and your students, and if you ever need our services, be sure to contact us.
We would love to know how you feel. Will you be sending your children back to school this fall, or would you prefer that they attend virtual school? Do you think they should keep pushing the reopen date back? Let us know your thoughts below!