With every passing day, students and parents are feeling more anxiety about the coming school year. Will campuses be open again at some point?
That’s the hope, but at Tuesday’s virtual Broward County School Board workshop, superintendent Robert Runcie said again that it all depends on the state of the pandemic.
“So the goal is, as we’ve always indicated, to have a complete, comprehensive plan to the board in August that helps us to continue to have flexibility and agility to be ready to shift our model from e-learning to hybrid to full time as conditions change,” Runcie said.
His recommendation is still in place to start the year with remote learning only, no students on campus, but Runcie has clearly heard the concerns of parents who are dissatisfied with the online learning experience.
“E-learning is gonna be very different than what everyone experienced during the last 12 weeks of the school year, several things are being put in place to bring about that change,” Runcie said.
He outlined what he said would be improvements to the program, including more live instruction, giving teachers the choice of using their classrooms from which to do their online instruction, more academic support for high school students, morning and evening sessions for elementary school students, and extensive training for teachers, which the union president confirms is happening now.
“There’s classes offered from 8 o’clock in the morning ‘till 8 at night and they are taking it, they’re getting in, they are working at it, teachers amongst themselves in schools are creating their own little training groups to help each other out,” said Broward Teachers Union president Anna Fusco.
The BTU says it’s not yet safe for teachers and students to go back to the classroom, pointing out that more than 200 Broward Schools employees or contractors have tested positive for coronavirus while schools are almost entirely empty.
“How is the district gonna handle when the spread gets worse? How’s the district gonna handle when people get deadly sick?” Fusco said.
The union, Runcie, and the school board all agree that online learning is not comparable to face-to-face instruction, so everyone wants kids back in the classroom. But Runcie has said he wants the COVID-19 positivity rate in Broward to get below 5% before schools can physically reopen.
So what about athletics? The Florida High School Athletics Association has the same benchmark for fall sports to begin.
“They’re also recommending that the percent positive rate in a community falls below 5% to seriously consider opening our athletic programs,” Runcie said during the meeting.
For that to happen, the community needs to step up its game.
“Wear masks, practice physical distancing, hand wash, do everything you can, that’s the most effective way for us to contain the pandemic, your efforts will be helping our children to realize the hopes and dreams that they have and allow us to open schools,” Runcie said, reminding everyone that thousands of students count on sports and music for college scholarships.
The superintendent said the district will do everything it can to make sure that every sport and all activities, including band and drama and cheerleading, will take place at some point during the school year.