Reopening schools was the topic for Hillsborough County’s Superintendent Davis yesterday. His plan is fluid but likely allows families to have a choice. The plan was outlined in a 47 page presentation to the school board on Tuesday. Superintendent Davis outlined three plans to the board with varying options within each plan (Tampa Bay Times):
“One thing we have learned is that our parents want choice,” superintendent Addison Davis said during his hour-long presentation. The ultimate plan must be fluid and flexible, Davis stressed, as conditions and local mandates are changing daily.
Much is still uncertain, with hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 being reported each day. The school reopening plan that received the most support in a morning workshop would allow some students to learn remotely.
But it also will move thousands of students around the county on buses, and depending on what decisions families make, might return some children to crowded schools…
One (plan) would be a hybrid model of instruction in which groups of students, arranged alphabetically to keep families together, would alternate between attending their physical schools and following along remotely. The hybrid, which might be needed if the COVID-19 numbers worsen, would ease crowding on the buses and in the classrooms. Board Member Cona called it “a logistical nightmare,” and no one else rose to its defense.
The third option would be to do all learning virtually, as happened in the last three months of the 2019-20 school year. Again, this might be necessary in the most severe level of COVID-19 spread.
The question of masks for students and staff was also discussed at length.
The district had intended to open about a dozen preschool programs this week with masks optional for children. That all changed with the city order. Now officials are wrestling with the possibility that they will be asked to make students of all ages wear masks.
Similarly, the district has made an abrupt change in its plans to provide masks.
Last week, word was that staff would be given masks, but that students would provide their own.
On Tuesday, Davis said the district is purchasing three reusable masks for each student. And if they are successful in an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they will receive another batch and give each student five more.
But it was unclear Tuesday how teachers would prevent children from losing their masks or how they would respond if a student refused to wear one.
Governor DeSantis and other politicians have stressed the need to reopen schools. Originally, they cited the loss of childcare for working parents and are now stressing the need to address learning gaps for low income and minority children.
Davis’s presentation contained statements that echoed those arguments, such as: “Nearly two thirds of employed parents in Florida say school closures have hurt their ability to perform their job,” and “COVID-19 will likely widen achievement gaps.”
The district will be surveying parents on July 1st to determine their preferences. Stay tuned as this story evolves.