Gabriela Enamorado/Staff Writer
When I think of public schools reopening in the fall, I can’t help but think about all of the sneezy children and unsanitary conditions. Schools are a hotbed for germs. Growing up, whenever I started a new school year I would almost immediately catch a cold. So last week, when I heard the Florida Commissioner of Education planned on completely reopening public schools across the state, I was shocked. How could anyone put the lives of our children and teachers in danger by sending them headfirst into a germ battlefield?
Florida is reaching new infection records every day. The virus shows no sign of slowing down yet. Children aren’t immune to the coronavirus and too many have already been infected.
Last Friday, Florida reported 16,797 children having tested positive for COVID-19. That’s about 31% of all children tested in the state, yet Governor DeSantis insists that it’s safe to reopen schools completely because the possibility of children catching the virus is low.
DeSantis may be confident in his decision to reopen schools, but I feel less secure in this choice. I believe that this will backfire and will just lead to thousands of people getting sick—not just children, but adults too.
DeSantis is forgetting that students aren’t the only ones who return to school in August. There are teachers, cafeteria workers, janitors and assistants. Opening up the schools again is going to put them and the families they go home to at risk.
If you’ve ever been inside a public school, you know that following social distancing rules will be impossible. I went to a high school with about 2,000 students in it. The hallways would get crowded when it was time to get to class. I would be forced to walk shoulder to shoulder with people. I can’t imagine schools will have a safe and functional way to tackle that issue.
If you’ve spent any time around kids or teenagers, you know that the chances of them following proper protocols are slim. Can we trust students to wear masks? Can we trust them to not invade people’s personal space? I think of younger children who might not grasp the severity of the situation and break the rules because they just don’t understand, or teenagers who just don’t want to be ordered around.
Florida’s public schools already have so little funding and resources. Teachers already don’t get paid enough. Often, they have to buy their own supplies. Now, they’re also expected to monitor social distancing protocols. They’ll have to sanitize their classrooms constantly, call out students who may be standing too close and worry about their own health, all at the same time.
I know some of my fellow Panthers feel the same way. I’m sure plenty of FIU students have siblings or kids of their own whose safety they worry about. I spoke to Deborah Lopez, a junior psychology major at FIU whose younger sisters will be entering fourth and tenth grade this fall. She remains concerned about schools potentially reopening.
“I think it’s very irresponsible for schools to reopen completely. They expect kids to act accordingly and won’t play around. We can’t expect them to follow rules and wear masks all day. It’s putting kids and staff at risk,” Lopez said.
She then went on to explain her worries for her own siblings. “I’m worried about them getting sick, getting others sick or being stressed over the virus. It could make them anxious to be in a dangerous situation. Staff can’t even refill soaps in bathrooms. How can we expect them to look after the kids? Especially because of limited resources.”
Lopez also thought a hybrid or completely remote school year would be the better option.
Luckily, it looks like this is mostly up to school superintendents and what they think would be the best choice for their respective county. Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is waiting to see if COVID-19 numbers lower, and currently thinks that it’s too early to make a decision. Broward County’s superintendent Robert Runcie said that schools will most likely remain remote in August. Hopefully, they make the right choice.
I think of my 12-year-old brother who is supposed to start the seventh grade in August. His immune system isn’t the best and I don’t want to see him get sick. It’s something that keeps gnawing at the back of my mind. I’m thinking of everyone’s little brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Their safety is on the line.
Featured image by Jernej Furman on Flickr.
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