On Friday, Broward County Public Schools welcomes Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students to the schoolhouse for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close. Other grades begin coming back in stages starting next Tuesday.
“I tell everyone, look, we’re never gonna be a hundred percent Covid-free environment but we’re gonna be as safe and secure and healthy as any other organization,” said superintendent Robert Runcie Tuesday morning.
Runcie took the news media on a tour of Hollywood Park Elementary, which he says is representative of all the school in the district, to see how staff is preparing for school during the pandemic.
“For the first time in this district, we have a nurse in every single school,” Runcie said.
Every school also has an isolation room. Students who show symptoms will be taken there. The health department will then test for Covid and begin contact tracing, and Runcie says isolated positive tests can be handled without closing a school.
“Yes, you could shut down a school but our expectation is that if all things are being followed and we’re monitoring everyone carefully we can minimize those situations where we would have to shut down an entire school,” Runcie explained.
The HVAC systems are a crucial element in the fight to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We actually bring in outside consultants to be able to sample and do independent reviews of air quality and finally all of our HVAC systems will be receiving the highest-rated MIRV filters and we’re changing the filters out at every school before we reopen,” said Runcie.
Of course all the desks in classrooms are spread far apart, that’s one of the obvious social distancing aspects of bringing kids back to school but beyond that, Runcie says every classroom also has the supplies that the teacher would need.
“Teachers will have all that they need and we’re providing that to every one of them,” Runcie promised. “Our staff has been working to deliver these items out of our warehouse to the schools so it’s quite possible where they have not seen these supplies show up yet.”
Having supplies doesn’t mean teachers aren’t anxious to face the unknown.
“I do feel that they’re nervous,” said teaching coach Cristina Bedgood about her colleagues. “But they are completely confident and they know they have what they need to be able to excel in this situation.”
Runcie says schools still need help from the community at large to do all the things to continue lowering the positivity rate.
“We all have to work together to make sure that we keep our schools open and our ability to keep our schools open is gonna be directly related to the behaviors that our students and families take not when they’re in schools but when they’re outside of school,” Runcie said.
If your children have symptoms, keep them home, and keep COVID-19 out of the schoolhouse, Runcie says.