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Teachers, School Boards Grapple With Reopening

Elizabeth LaMacchia sent WMFE a video demonstrating how she has spaced the desks in her portable classroom per CDC guidelines. Image: Elizabeth LaMacchia / Facebook

Orange County’s school board meeting Tuesday ended with no decision on how to reopen in fall. Meanwhile other school districts have rolled out reopening plans, giving parents a choice of classroom learning or virtual school. 

On this episode of Intersection we discuss the challenge of reopening in Orange County and other school districts as coronavirus cases continue to surge: what it means for public health and the economy.

We’re joined by 90.7’s Amy Green who’s covering the story, Orlando pediatrician Dr. Candice Jones, and Dr. Kenneth Alexander, Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at Nemours Children’s Hospital. 

Listen to part one of the conversation here:

Green said the Orange County School Board met for nearly 10 hours on Tuesday.

“[School board chair] Teresa Jacobs made the point that just for example, in Orange County, we don’t have any advisory from local health officials that opening brick and mortar schools five days a week is unsafe and so that’s what they’re looking at doing.”

She said most counties are grappling with the issue in similar ways.

“Most counties are presenting parents with at least two options, one being the face to face option, and then the other option being a virtual learning or distance learning situation.”

Dr. Jones said some parents have told her their kids did well with distance learning last semester.

“On the other hand, I have children who, whether they have ADHD or a learning disability or some type of special need, or a parent who is just not equipped to teach their child, they struggled with getting their child to do their work, or even helping their child learn,” said Dr. Jones.

“And so those parents are telling me now that they think their kids are better served in school and they plan to put them in school, but they are aware of the risk of COVID. And so they’re in a tough place.”

Dr. Alexander, who has been advising Osceola and Polk County school districts, said safety is the most important consideration for school districts.

“Children represent really only a minority of hospital hospitalized cases. So children do well. I’m much more concerned about the health and safety of teachers and staff,” said Dr. Alexander.

“What we’ve asked the schools to do or advised they do is to provide a spectrum of options,” he said.

Allowing parents who are able to educate their children at home to do so can reduce the burden on schools.

“By reducing the number of students in the schools, we can protect the teachers as well.”

Listen to part two of the conversation here:



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About Matthew Peddie

Matt Peddie