CENTRAL FLORIDA — Parents of Central Florida students say they are worried about sending their kids back to school in the fall if campuses reopen because of continued concerns over the coronavirus.
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Single mother of 8-year-old twins Yasmine Kareem says having them home all the time can be hectic. That is partly because she is also balancing her career as a medical doctor.
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But with her expertise, the doctor says she had almost rather her girls continue to stay home instead of going back to school in the fall.
“I’m worried about infection risk. You know classrooms aren’t nearly big enough to keep kids at a six foot distance, and let’s face it, you can’t keep 8-year-olds at a six foot distance,” Kareem said.
She is joined in her reservations by top medical expert on the White House coronavirus task force Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“We don’t know everything about this virus, and we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children,” Fauci said Tuesday while testifying before a Senate committee.
Spectrum News 13 took an informal poll on Twitter of parents, asking whether they think they would be ready to send their children back to school in the fall.
While many out of the 158 people who voted said yes, the majority said they were not ready.
“It’s not worth taking that risk,” Kareem said.
During Tuesday’s Senate hearing Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul questioned Fauci’s statement, saying the decision to reopen schools could be different for different areas.
“I think the one size fits all that we’re going to have a national strategy that nobody is going to go to school is kind of ridiculous, we really ought to be doing it school district by district,” Paul said.
But Fauci said until a vaccine is ready, he cannot fully assure safety for students in school.
“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term, would be something of a bit of a bridge too far,” Fauci said.
With all this mind, Kareem says she is seriously considering virtual school for her girls, but wants to wait until more guidance comes down from state and federal agencies before making any final decisions.
“I have the Florida virtual application filled out on my computer but I have not submitted it, because I am waiting to see,” Kareem said.
Spectrum News 13 reached out to Central Florida school districts to see their plans for reopening in the fall.
Here are their statements:
Orange County Public Schools: "The district is waiting on further direction from the FL Department of Education regarding the upcoming school year. The Board will continue to have discussions at upcoming board meetings and/or work sessions to prepare for what decisions need to be made."
Volusia County Schools: "We are forming a committee made up of parents, students, community members, staff, and more to discuss the options. I’ll let you know when we have a better idea. I think it’s safe to say we will be prepared for school in fall, regardless of whether it’s virtual or brick and mortar."
Brevard Public Schools: "Brevard Public Schools is just starting those discussions about the fall. Like other districts, we are waiting on direction from the governor and guidance from the Florida Department of Health. BPS leaders anticipate some form of reopening in the fall, but with social distancing and hygiene measures recommended by the CDC and Health Department. In the meantime, BPS has been promoting Brevard Virtual School as an option for families who do not yet feel safe having students return to campuses."
Osceola County School District: "Superintendent Pace is in the process of establishing an Osceola Back-to-School Task Force made up of parents, teachers, support staff, health care professionals, principals, and more to develop operational guidance for different scenarios based on what the data is telling us in July and August. Science, CDC guidelines, and our state and local data will guide what school looks like in the fall. At this time, no decisions have been made."
Seminole County Public Schools: "We are preparing as if we will be able to start the school-year as normal on our school campuses for face-to-face on August 10th. If campuses re-open as normal, there will be several new student and staff guidelines in place. However, because there's still a lot of unknowns, we are additionally preparing for a variety of alternative scenarios such as a continuation of distance-learning like we're doing now or a model of Virtual Options through our Seminole County Virtual School. We're also pre-planning in case we have a second-wave of the pandemic and start the school year as normal, but then have to transition back to distance-learning if needed. All of our School Districts in Florida are taking guidance in coordination from the State of Florida, CDC, FL Dept. of Health, & FL Dept. of Education. Parents will be communicated with and notified as soon as we know once those decisions have been made. We will continue to be flexible and adjust as needed so that we can continue to deliver high-quality instruction to our SCPS students and families."