The Broward County Public Schools board has settled on a reopening plan that includes bringing certain grades back to the classroom in mid-October.
Pre-K students, kindergarteners, first graders, students with disabilities, and sixth and ninth graders will return physically back to school from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16. Friday, Oct. 20 would be the first full day for all students at all schools, Superintendent Robert Runcie said after the district's special meeting Tuesday evening.
Additionally, Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 would be half-days for teachers designated for planning and preparation. Oct. 13 would be a full day for teachers. No students will be on campus those days.
The reopening plan will be presented at another meeting in the first week of October for the school board to officially vote on. Runcie said they expect to move forward with those dates for reopening.
The county's public schools have been operating under distance learning since March, when officials closed them due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier, Runcie recommended that schools reopen for in-person learning on Oct. 5 for kindergarten through 8th grades, with high schools reopening on Oct. 12.
“We can’t let perfect stand in the way of good, there’s no guarantee that we’ll have, ever, of a 100% COVID-free environment," Runcie said. "Issues will emerge and we’ll correct them, we will learn from them and make adjustments as necessary.”
Facial coverings would be mandatory for everyone on campus, and the plan details protocols for sanitizing, hand washing, and social distancing.
“I don’t appreciate people saying that I’ll have blood on my hands,” said school board member Patricia Good, fighting back tears. “I stay up at night about this meeting today because I know that we’re gonna have to make decisions that are gonna impact a lot of people.”
During the meeting, a mix of teachers union representatives and parents were allowed to give their thoughts to the board.
"People are still contracting the virus, people are still dying, and if the nine of you and superintendent Runcie are OK with people dying on your watch, on your hands, then you guys stand up there and vote to open schools when they’re not ready," Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco said.
“You can’t protect our kids from people walking on campus starting fights, you can’t protect our kids from a single armed man coming to school and opening fire, what makes you think you can protect our children from a virus you can’t even see?” parent Antinea Haversham said.
“I’m not sure of the October 5th date, October 20th would be the beginning of the second quarter which makes more sense to me but I definitely want to send my kids back when they go back as long as it’s safe for them," parent Rod Velez said.
“E-learning is not a full diet of education for students, it’s lacking the primary element of learning, I seen it in my own daughter,” said another father, Frank Saralegui.
Saralegui spoke for many parents who want their kids back in classrooms, even though the experience will not be the same as it was before the pandemic. Students will still be using their online learning platforms to some degree even in their classrooms, to keep the academic playing field somewhat level with classmates who choose to stay home.
Board members have been asking many questions about the safety of kids, teachers, bus drivers and more, and some of them have suggested waiting until the start of the second marking period, October 20th, to reopen instead of October 5th and 12th.