FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It’s the first time in months that the Broward County School Board meets in person. They are holding an in-person workshop Tuesday regarding the reopening of schools in October.
After the meeting, which lasted nearly 12 hours, Superintendent Robert Runcie spoke to the media and laid out guidance provided to him by the board.
Half days for teachers would begin on Friday Oct. 9 and Monday Oct. 12, with a full teacher planning day on Tuesday Oct. 13.
Pre-K through 1st grade, grades six and nine, as well as ESE students, would return in clusters on Oct. 14, 15 and 16.
Remaining students would be invited back to school on Oct. 20.
“We can’t let perfect stand in the way of good,” Runcie said during the meeting. “There is no guarantee that we will ever have a 100% COVID-free environment. Issues will emerge and we will correct them, we will learn from them and we will make adjustments as necessary.”
The school board will hold a formal vote on the recommendations next week.
Runcie’s comments can be seen in the video below:
The Broward Teachers Union met for about five hours on Monday to discuss safety measures. The meeting prepared BTU President Anna Fusco to make a 7-minute statement during the meeting Tuesday. She said teachers are mostly worried about protecting lives.
“We need to make sure that our schools are going to open safely,” Fusco said, adding the union is not opposed to reopening; they just need more time.
Patricia Good, the school board member that represents District 2, told Runcie that he needs to deal with external pressures to reopen. She said she supports an Oct. 16 opening school day because although it is a Friday; it is the end of the quarter.
Laurie Rich Levinson, the school board member that represents District 6, said the Florida Department of Education’s allocation of funds also takes into account the students who are involved in distance learning. She said the reopening should start Oct. 12 with the early learners.
“I don’t think we should be bringing all elementary schools at the same time,” Rich Levinson said.
Robin Bartleman, a school board member with countywide representation, was concerned about the 27% of the teachers who want to be able to work from home during the pandemic. Teachers will have to provide medical records for themselves or relatives.
“A lot of them are going to choose to come back even with a preexisting condition because they can’t afford not to” Bartleman said, adding school employees’ expectations when it comes to close contact with students need to be more clear.
Lori Alhadeff, a school board member who represents District 4, was concerned about the strategies that are being implemented to avoid crowding in the hallways between classes and during recess. Alhadeff said she supports the phased return to classrooms starting Oct. 12.
“I am for giving the teachers a plexiglass shield,” Alhadeff said, adding she would also like to see plexiglass shields at students' desks as “another layer of protection.”
The district will not be installing plexiglass in classrooms. Several bus drivers said they are worried about social distancing guidelines that are less than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 6-feet recommendation.
Parents and teachers who disagreed with Runcie said they are concerned that lives are being risked so students can return to classrooms to stare at a computer all day — which they are already doing at home.
“The only explanation that I’ve heard is we’re going to do some form of babysitting because sitting in a classroom with a laptop is no different than what we’re doing right now for instruction,” said David Fleischer, a West Broward High School teacher.
Heather P. Brinkworth, a school board member who represents District 3, asked Runcie to make sure parents and teachers understand what the expectations are with an educational video or guide.
Rich Levinson said it’s important for teachers and parents to know that the e-learning experience in classrooms is going to be better than the home experience. There will also be benefits to students, she said.
“Social interaction is essential for the intellectual and social development of children,” Rich Levinson said.
Opinions during meeting
SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS
View school board’s presentation
TEACHERS UNIONS ON TWISF (Sunday, Sept. 21)