MOVE DCPS FULLY ONLINE FOR FALL AND DEMAND THE GOVERNOR PROTECT WORKING PARENTS & TEACHERS
On June 23rd, an article was released outlining Dr. Greene’s plan for partially reopening Duval County Public Schools in the fall. To say this plan is irresponsible is an understatement, as the families of both students and teachers alike are being left no choice but to return to school in some capacity without any well thought out considerations for their safety. We implore the superintendent to do what is safest for the county by moving our schools fully online for fall and demanding the governor expand benefits for working parents. Moving schools online can and will save lives.
SAFETY CONCERNS - Under the current plan, all grade levels are required to attend school in some capacity, with elementary schools open full time. All versions of reopening the schools fail to address many safety concerns. First, anyone who has worked with children knows the difficulties of keeping masks on their faces, making sure they wash their hands, and ensuring they maintain a safe distance apart. Even if it were possible, the current plan does not require masks in schools. Second, given the size of the classrooms in elementary, middle, and high school, it is impossible to follow CDC guidelines and seat students at least 6 feet apart. MOST IMPORTANTLY, no amount of wiping and distancing will stop the circulation of moisture particles throughout entire school buildings via air vents. Large groups of people coming from all over the city to congregate in tight indoor spaces is a recipe for disaster. Students will get each other sick, and then come home to infect their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other members of their household. In recent comments, the superintendent even acknowledged that schools are large gatherings as defined by CDC guidelines - something that in all other cases would be avoided.
FINANCING - The district recently decided to invest $4 million in plastic barriers to separate students. This means nothing, as students will still switch classes and sit in plastic barriers that have been used by others without being cleaned. Air will still be circulated between rooms, students will still get up and move around during class, and the barriers will greatly limit teachers who rely on tables for seating by minimizing the amount of students that can sit in one place. More than anything, $4 million is money that could be spent on laptops, internet, and other resources for the county’s safest option: moving schools online. This is an investment in SAVING LIVES. Our superintendent needs to set an example for the state and pressure the governor to provide support that would keep Jacksonville’s citizens the most safe.
SICKNESS PROTOCOLS - There are little to no protocols in place for when students and teachers inevitably get sick. Will they contact trace? Will they shut down the schools for two weeks and then start all over again? Will sick teachers have to use their own accumulated paid time off and sick days to stay out of a workplace they were forced to come back to in the first place? Avoiding large gatherings is the only way to ensure NO ONE is put at risk.
TEACHERS - For many teachers, this is life threatening. Even the plans that provide online options for some parents still require teachers to be in schools and potentially in contact with 100+ people a day. Teachers who want to keep their job or their health insurance have to come into work. Many teachers in our district are over 50 or have conditions that put them at a higher risk. These people are given no option by which they can protect themselves. Why are we forcing them to choose between money + health insurance required to live, or death?
WORKING PARENTS - Working parents, we SEE YOU and HEAR YOU. Many parents who want schools to reopen feel this way because they are being given no choice but to go back to work. If they pick their child’s safety, they are sacrificing the work needed to live. If our superintendent moves fully online, she can set an example and put pressure on the government to protect working parents. What working parents need isn’t schools reopening, it is stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, temporary rent suspension, etc. We need the government to step up and protect the lives of all Floridians by ensuring working parents have the necessary resources to keep their children at home.
Ultimately, we need swift action and ironclad safety measures. The only way to truly protect everyone and put no lives at risk in our city is to move Duval County Public Schools online for this upcoming fall. Until we can get COVID-19 under control, there is no return to normalcy, and doing our part means imploring the superintendent to do what is safest for the county by moving schools online and demanding the governor expand benefits for working parents.