The nation’s sixth-largest school district is back in action. Broward County Public Schools welcomed its 260,000 students back to its campuses Wednesday, minus 436 students and 191 staff members. They are on quarantine, having recently tested positive for coronavirus.
“Well after a year and a half of online learning and not having our students on campus, it is pure excitement and joy and an honor to welcome them home,” said Kassandra Fried, the principal of Cypress Bay High School in Weston, the state’s largest with nearly 5,000 students.
They opened a new classroom building, a symbol of renewal for Cypress Bay and the district as a whole after the challenges of the pandemic.
Schools and COVID
“We know this is gonna be a different year again, we know that it’s gonna be almost like a roller coaster ride, ups and downs, because things are going to happen, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, we’re realistic about that but we’ve been planning for it the entire summer and now we’re implementing that plan,” said interim superintendent, Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
Part of that plan is, of course, mandatory masking. Everyone on campus is wearing a mask, despite the governor saying school districts cannot force students to mask up, that only parents should make that decision.
“What I say to the state is please, be mindful of what local control is and what the local situations are for each of your local school districts. Yesterday I announced and I said right now we only have five ICU beds left in our pediatric units across Broward County, that’s critical, we have 260,000 students,” Cartwright said.
“No hugging, no touching, OK, stay away, alright?” said Letisha Horton to her two kids as she was dropping them off at Apollo Middle School Wednesday morning.
This year, the drop-off pep talk has parents warning their kids to be COVID-safe.
“It’s mixed emotions, I’m nervous, I’m excited, I’m nervous because it is COVID and I would like all the kids to be protected, safe, and everything,” Horton said.
“You know, fingers crossed that everybody just stays safe and teachers are safe and the kids keep their masks on,” said Rhiannon Stenger, who dropped off her 8th-grader at Apollo.
I asked her if it makes her more comfortable knowing everyone is wearing a mask.
“Yes, most definitely,” Stenger said.
We did not find a parent or teacher Wednesday who opposes the mandatory mask policy, but the district says there was one student and one teacher who each refused to mask up.
The district granted medical mask exceptions to 200 students, and another 190 students requested mask waivers without having a verified medical reason to not wear a mask. Those requests were not granted.