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Back to school prep: Forest Hills Elementary gets touchless water fountains, hand sanitizing stations, signs on COVID prevention

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Forest Hills Elementary School administrators, teachers, and staff are preparing for hundreds of students from Pre-kindergarten to 5th grade to return to the classrooms on Wednesday in Coral Springs for the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

The scheduled employee planning 5-day period started on Aug. 11. Barbara Rothman, the school’s principal, said the safety protocols to help reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus will continue amid a community surge in COVID cases.

“Cleanliness is very important to us,” Rothman said.

Rothman said the Ranger Bear’s school campus, at 3100 NW 85th Ave., has several hand sanitizing stations and touchless water fountains.

“Our purpose here is basically to keep them healthy, to keep them safe, and to maximize their instruction,” Rothman said.

The school has had outbreaks before. From Sep 6, 2020, to May 22, 2021, the school reported 41 COVID cases, including 33 students infected, 4 teachers, and 3 staff members, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“We are spacing out the kids and making sure everybody has their own independent supplies,” said Kimberly Eloy, a 1st-grade teacher at Forest Hills Elementary School.

Rothman said the school will have “COVID-19 tracing logs” in classrooms. Anna Fusco, Broward Teachers Union president, said that as the virus spreads contact tracing will be very important. She said schools also need to be transparent about how many positive cases there are and how many people are in quarantine.

Rothman said there will be plenty of educational signs to remind students about Broward County Public Schools’ face mask mandate. Debra Hixon, a member of the School Board of Broward County, expects there will be parents who will oppose the district’s mandate.

“Each school will deal with it as best that they can,” Hixon said.

According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, transmissibility remains high in Broward County and about 66.5% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine against COVID.

School bus drivers wanted

As of Monday, BCPS 180 job openings for school bus drivers. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is also hiring and there were 105 openings as of Monday.

Linda Lewis, of the National Federation of Public and Private Employees, said the school districts are just not offering enough pay, so bus operators are leaving for more competitive jobs with companies like Amazon and Target. Lewis said other school districts around the country are facing the same shortage.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.