On the same day employees of Florida International University were asked to come back to campus, the governor of Florida took aim at the health and safety protocols the university is consulting as the basis for bringing its staff back.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for reopening K-12 schools last week. In Florida, public schools have been open since October, with parents given the option of sending their kids to school or keeping them home for remote learning during this pandemic.
“What the CDC put out, 5:00 on a Friday afternoon -- I wonder why they would do it then -- was quite frankly a disgrace. It would require, if you actually follow that, closing 90% of schools in the United States. We are open, we remain open, and we are not turning back,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, without explaining or detailing which part of the guidelines were objectionable.
The superintendents of Miami-Dade and Broward County Public Schools have each announced their support for the CDC guidelines, which are only recommendations.
In a phone call this afternoon, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the guidelines are there to make it easier for schools to open, not to shut down schools that are already open. He and Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie have said their district schools are already following almost all of the CDC guidelines.
In a text message exchange Monday afternoon, Runcie said the only recommendation which causes some concern is the six-foot social distancing standard for children. He and Carvalho each agreed that keeping kids that far apart is nearly impossible, which is why their districts use the American Academy of Pediatrics standard of three feet of distance as long as everyone is wearing a mask.
Schools and COVID
Meanwhile, FIU is coming back to life. Students told us when they walk around campus these days they see more activity and more classes offered in person now compared to the fall semester. The university administration is asking its employees who have been working at home to return to their on-campus offices and classrooms.
“We are committed to evidence-based guidelines, we are committed to the safety and welfare of everyone that steps into this campus and we know that we can pivot very rapidly if any of the numbers start increasing, but right now, we feel we have the necessary tools available to make this campus safe,” said Dr. Eneida Roldan, the CEO of FIU’s Health Care Network.
“We gotta liberate us from the grip of this disease, we gotta take back our space, we have to go on the offensive, safely,” said FIU president Dr. Mark Rosenberg in a webinar to staff last week.
“Considering that we have a vaccine now, I think it would be a good idea,” said student Cameron Clark.
FIU students seem to be in favor of any measures that would make college feel like college again.
“We’re losing a lot of students and the college experience,” said student Shelsia Rameau.
“It’s not the same,” said student Christopher Lugo. “You know, working from home you don’t get that same atmosphere, the same feeling.”
DeSantis said when it comes to the national debate on reopening K-12 schools, the answer is simple.
“The school reopening plan that makes the most sense, if you want to open schools, open ‘em, open the doors,” said the governor Monday in Tallahassee.