While Florida’s coronavirus infections continue to rise, the Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an Emergency Order mandating all schools to reopen in the fall. To date, Florida has one of the highest infection rates in the world, with some days new confirmed cases topping 10,000. Hours after this announcement, President Trump tweeted “Schools must open in the fall.”
As a mother with an elementary aged child, I am highly concerned and on edge about how our school district plans to reopen. As much as my daughter and I want her to return to her school, we don’t want to risk her health. As I speak to fellow parents in South Florida, there are an array of concerns, especially for working parents who are not able to stay home with their children. And for parents who have their elderly parents living with them, or children who have underlying health issues, returning to school is not a viable option. I am truly concerned this decision now impacts the well-being of our children this coming fall.
In one day, Florida broke the single day infection record with 15,300 new coronavirus cases, the highest rate by any state in a single day since the pandemic reached the United States. The lack of response–and leadership–has jeopardized the health of millions of people in the state.
School districts are each taking different approaches to reopening. The Palm Beach County School Board decided students will continue to learn virtually when classes start in August. All seven board members unanimously agreed to continue virtual learning while the coronavirus continues to spread.
In Broward County, the school board is holding continuous live workshops specifically on reopening. Parents are concerned and watching very closely. There was also an online parent survey which was circulated. This survey will help the district know which options parents prefer for their children when school opens in August. Broward County School Board plans to hold another workshop, and the Superintendent stated “We will never compromise the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff.” As of right now, Broward County Superintendent stated that the plan will be for the reopening of our schools to be via elearning until it is safe to do otherwise.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools is giving parents five additional days for parents to select their preferred option for children’s fall semester enrollment. Miami-Dade superintendent also announced that their plan is to provide e-learning for the reopening of their schools.
As a parent, I want my daughter to get the best education available, but still be safe. My plans are to keep my daughter in her local school and do e-learning, in hopes that once it’s safe for our children and teachers, she can return to school like she wants. My concern is how many hours of instruction her teacher will be able to provide. I am preparing myself mentally for this process, as I know I am the one that will need to manage my daughters time and make sure her assignments are completed. I have to take on the role of educator, too, while working from home. I understand that I have the privilege of working from home, unlike too many families out there. Also, I have friends who must report to work and are unable to stay home with their children.
Why should a family have to make the impossible decision between staying healthy, or putting food on the table? The federal government must intervene to make sure every family, regardless of their zip code or their immigration status, has what they need to survive the pandemic.
While our school district is really listening to the needs of its parents, as they are offering morning and an afternoon session for students, there are other districts that are not. The Broward County School Board also spoke of implementing a Hotline for parents who are struggling. But, what about the families who can’t afford laptops or don’t have access to high speed internet? My hope is that our state–and federal government–work to ensure equity for all.
In addition, there are many parents in need of child care services which aren’t being offered in many of our counties right now due to covid. The state needs to offer incentives and subsidies for child care workers and child care facilities. National organizations, like Community Change, are demanding $100 billion investment in child care–it’s the type of bold solution we need to get through these tough times. There are still many parents who are unemployed and have received no benefits.
Many families are struggling right now and school boards are feeling the pressure. We are awaiting for the leadership in Florida to address these issues and to come up with viable solutions. The country needs innovative, bold solutions so that every family can thrive.