What message are we sending the education community when we force them to risk their lives?

By Whitney Reddick and Alycia Campbell

When contemplating the return to school I have no doubt that the discussion is difficult and pacifying all parties is going to be a tough feat. However, starting school in a face to face setting is a dangerous outset. The cost both monetary and to safely do so is not a track I am willing to place our students, my peers, or myself on as a stakeholder.Also, what message are we conveying to our educational community about how much we care? Not just teachers but all those who serve to teach our children daily from janitorial staff to administration? In all honesty, none. We are telling them that they are expendable. That we want to place them on the front lines to contract the illness and help create herd immunity.

Essentially, we are telling them they do not matter. Why would we risk one of the most valuable resources our community has? These are teachers who, no doubt, want to be back in the classroom yet we are taking away their ability to effectively teach by restricting movement, materials (no sharing), true social interactions, and bonding. A great teacher can bond with students, no matter the setting.

Below is a run-through of some of the questions that are keeping my husband and me up talking (and crying) at night:

  • When one of us contracts COVID, how do we isolate with our son and elderly father in the house to try to protect them?
  • What if we both go down at the same time?
  • If one of us goes into the ICU, who helps with my family members who can’t care for themselves? What if we both get hospitalized?
  • What does life on welfare look like for us if we are forced with the decision to sign a liability waiver or quit?
  • How long can we go without pay when we inevitably run out of sick days? (Hint-0 days)
  • We need to make a will.
  • What happens if one of us dies?

That was our very real conversation last night that left my head spinning. I hope it left you feeling as unnerved as it left me.

It’s not hyperbolic. I’m not being an extremist. Jacksonville’s positivity rate yesterday was 20.9%, and we had 600 new cases. We are a hotspot in the US, which also means a global hotspot.

It is safe to assume that within the first week we will come in contact with this highly contagious and deadly virus. The viral load will get to be so high that we will get sick.I know you want schools to open. We do too, but not face to face until we have two weeks of no new cases.

Teachers should not be punished with facing the brunt of this virus, unprepared and underfunded, because the leaders at the top have failed to contain it.

If you wish to support your local teachers, hear our cry loud and clear. Listen to our questions. Do not push our concerns aside.

We matter, children matter, my peers matter, my family matters, I MATTER.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to understand my concerns,

Duval versus what other big districts are doing

There are 67 different districts in Florida doing things 67 different ways, so I just looked at what a couple of the other big districts were doing so I could compare. Spoiler most seem to be heading in a different direction than us.


Palm Beach, 


From the Palm Beach Post, 
Students in Palm Beach County public schools will continue learning from home when classes resume next month after school board members concluded Wednesday the risks of reopening classrooms were too great.

Under increasing pressure from teachers and local health experts, the seven board members unanimously agreed to keep classes online-only for the district’s 174,000 students until the coronavirus pandemic improves.
“We’re truly not ready,” board member Marcia Andrews said. “We’re not ready from a health standpoint. And we’re not ready from a planning standpoint.”

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20200708/pbc-school-campuses-will-remain-closed-to-students-board-members-decide


Miami Dade,


From the Miami Herald, 


Miami-Dade County Public Schools won’t be able to reopen schools, as a new state order calls for, if the county is still in its Phase 1 reopening stage, which county leaders are tightening due to a surge of COVID-19 cases, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Tuesday. 


If conditions continue on the same upward trajectory — Florida’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have doubled in the past two weeks to more than 213,000 — Carvalho said in an interview with the Herald that he did not foresee MDCPS “being able to resume schooling in a traditional way.” 


If the county is still in Phase 1 by the start of school Aug. 24, as it is now, schooling would be held entirely online. 


https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?


Hillsborough,


From the Tampa Times, 


Reversing a position that stirred anxiety among public school staff and families, Hillsborough County superintendent Addison Davis announced Tuesday that teachers and students must wear masks when campuses reopen in August. 


Previously, Davis had said masks would be encouraged, but optional. He changed his mind after consulting with medical, education and community leaders, and hearing from many teachers and parents. 


“This is a movement that must be taken in order to protect our children,” Davis said. “My responsibility is to take every proactive step I can to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”


https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/2020/07/07/hillsborough-schools-to-require-masks-for-students-staff/


From the Orlando Sentinel, 


The Orange County school district likely will give parents three options for how their children are educated when the new school year starts next month: a return to in-person, on-campus classes or two online choices that would keep students studying at home. 


As Orange school leaders spent hours Tuesday discussing the options for reopening schools, upset teachers paraded in cars around district headquarters, urging them to keep campuses closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.



https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/education/os-ne-orange-schools-reopening-discussion-protest-20200707-dwak2zcsgvdazonhwtxe3s3jti-story.html



Broward County,


From the Sun-Sentinel, 


South Florida students won’t be required to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms next month, despite a state order Monday that mandates the opening of school five days a week when the new school year starts. 


The order leaves the decision to local officials based on health considerations. South Florida school officials say it would be difficult to have everyone return to school safely as the coronavirus pandemic continues its relentless spread.


https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/schools/fl-ne-schools-reopen-order-20200707-4xzxx6lj7bcy7dml63g45cfryq-story.html


Virtual learning, mandatory masks, and options for families not for teachers.


These are interesting and scary times. 

About opening schools because kids don’t get sick from the corona virus?

You hear it pretty regularly, we should open schools because kids don’t get sick. Yes I know, this totally discounts the fact they learn from and live with adults but then again I am not trying to rush children back to their Petri dishes, sorry schools. Also, it turns out that it is false.


From WTXL.com


As the Florida Department of Education mandates that public K-12 schools must open in August, thousands of children in Florida are continuing to test positive for COVID-19.

According to the Florida Department of Health’s latest data, more than 11,000 children under 18 have tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began in March.



https://www.wtxl.com/news/coronavirus/more-than-11-000-children-test-positive-for-coronavirus-in-florida?fbclid=IwAR3J–U1qQW99yRBPtykWfi4VZgFuiLYEQyVxkugxkziwvA7TCNgau-jCKI


Gulp


Deep breaths, deep breaths.



These are the facts,


Yesterday Florida had 9,989 cases of the coronavirus.


604 were in Jacksonville, and we had a 20 percent infection rate.


These numbers are going in the worn direction, but so is the state with their rush to open schools.


Here is another fact,

When schools open, people will get sick, and they will close. It’s not a matter of if but when and how many. We are risking the lives and the health of children and teachers for what? A couple weeks of daycare? Mark my words, the cost of opening schools will be one we regret paying.

To learn more about the coronavirus affects children, click the links,

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/07/how-coronavirus-affects-kids/613891/

https://cbs12.com/news/local/doctors-concerned-that-covid-19-may-be-harming-lungs-of-children

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/08/scientists-warn-of-potential-wave-of-brain-damage-linked-to-covid-19.html

Can the CDC be trusted when it comes to schools?

Trump could politicize a ham sandwich, it’s his gift and our curse. Well somehow he politicized opening schools and people are picking sides.


From CNN,


After President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he disagreed with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for safely reopening schools because they are “very tough” and “expensive,” the agency said it would issue new recommendations next week.
The move came as the Trump administration makes a concerted push for schools to reopen by the fall, even as cases surge in some parts of the country.
After Trump voiced displease at the CDC’s handling of the issue, the agency’s director said his recommendations shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not returning children to classrooms.
Instead, Dr. Robert Redfield and other members of the White House coronavirus task force said every effort must be made to bring students back to schools, suggesting doing otherwise would harm their health and development.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/08/politics/trump-cdc-school-guidelines-funding/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0r1P5DaGt4YGZydZCcGIlEIrWoMpY7cJKN6JI3D9JLIbSAaa4B1exp78o


Um, so following their recommendations is an excuse? How does that compute? Every effort seems to include, risk their teacher’s lives.  


So here is the thing, since the president didn’t like the recommendations, the new plan is to get new recommendations.


From the USA Today, 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is revising its guidance on reopening schools after President Donald Trump tweeted his disagreement with them, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday.
“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence said at a news conference at the U.S. Department of Education. “That’s the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/08/pence-cdc-changing-coronavirus-school-guidelines-after-trump-attack/5398493002/?

So this is what the upside-down is like?

For those scoring at home.

Trump tweeted he didn’t like the CDC guidelines and was going to talk to them.

The CDC then said, why would somebody use our guidelines?

Now we are getting new guidelines.

Sadly the CDC has just traded its credibility and an unknown amount of lives for a few months of employment.  Shame on them.

To read more, click the link, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-education/new-u-s-cdc-school-reopening-guidelines-promised-after-trump-complains-idUSKBN24922X

High school teacher in tears says they want out.

I often get notes from teachers and I received this heartbreaking one earlier today. Mind you this is a long time veteran who feels helpless and who has wanted to do nothing but teach their entire life. I have used it with their permission but I have deleted their name because they feared retribution but that’s another problem for another day.

Between you and me I would walk out today if I wasn’t a single parent. I applied for secretary and editor and paralegal this morning just to try and get out. I’ve wanted to teach since I was ten years old but I can’t take this anymore. 


And I know it’s babyish but I have been crying since 8 this morning when my principal emailed me and told me I had to move classrooms. I am so stressed and overwhelmed and panicked that crying is about all I can do. 

I tried to assure them they were not alone and that hundreds, maybe thousands of teachers felt the same way but I don’t think I helped.

Friends we have a huge decision to make and it’s to be inconvenienced or to risk lives.

It’s to lose teachers like above one way or another, or it’s to do better. 

Teachers only want to teach safely, is that to much to ask? Some more unanswered questions

From a reader,


TEACHERS ONLY WANT TO TEACH SAFELY. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK? -MORE QUESTIONS


Here are some other questions we should ask ourselves:
*Will there be time to sanitize between classes? Whose responsibility will that be?


*What is reported and to whom when a teacher gets Covid?


*Will a teacher catching Covid be covered by workman’s compensation?


*Will students be allowed to meet in the same classroom that has a Covid event?


*What is the turnaround time before the room is allowed to be used again if the virus is present?


*Are there any penalties in place for students and teachers who refuse to wear masks all day?


*Will there be any extra pay for substitute teachers willing to take the risk to cover classes?


*Will cleaning supplies such as Clorox wipes, Lysol spray to kill Covid droplets, and hand sanitizer be provided for at least 180 students for 180 days?


*Where will teachers be when the students are at lunch? We are entitled to a duty-free lunch period, so what happens if the kids are not utilizing the cafeteria?


*Will teachers be responsible for distributing breakfast again along with lunch due to social distancing rules?


*Will teachers be required to provide tutoring in the brick and mortar setting too?


*What happens with classroom situations where there are no windows to the room, and doors must stay locked for safety reasons?


*Will social distancing be practiced at fire drills, or will we stop having them due to Covid?


*Will teachers be required to monitor the halls at high schools with 1,500 to 3,000+ students and the virus floating by?


*What happens if a teacher refuses to download an app on their phone?


*What happens if the teacher phone breaks and they can’t check in? Sh*t happens!


*Will parents be allowed in the schools without masks?


*Will there be exceptions to wearing masks for kids who parents that do not believe in them?


*Will teachers be required to use some form of Teams even if they are in a brick and mortar setting in case the schools are shut down again?


*Will the auditorium be used for mass gatherings such as programs where students can sing and dance?


*Will teachers be required to share medical information such as they are having allergy issues instead of Covid? Will they need a doctor’s note stating such?


*Are there any HIPPA violations to consider?


*Will parents be required to wear masks at parent/teacher conferences? Will teachers have a right to refuse a face-to-face meeting if the parent refuses to wear a mask?


*Will parents be required to submit and keep a working phone number for the school to reach them in the event of an emergency?


*What is the “hard” criteria for sending a child to a nurse if there is one available, or who will be responsible for sending a sick child home?


*Will the state be willing to shut down the schools if the flu numbers tick up along with Covid?


*How high will the Covid numbers have to be before anyone with a brain decides that it is not safe for everyone to return to school? What is the number?


*How many students and teachers have to die before the leaders of the nation get it that the virus is not going to go away?


*What is the plan for the second wave of Corona virus?

People of color are more at risk to COVID 19, what is DCPS doing to keep them safe?

Good evening DCPS Board Members, 

My name is Chris Janson. Both of my sons have been schooled within DCPS their entire lives – one graduated from Stanton this past spring and one is a rising junior at DA. We live at 4518 Shaky Leaf Ln, Jacksonville, FL 32224, Jacksonville, FL 32224. I work at UNF in the Center for Urban Education and Policy. 

My family and I share deep concerns about the district reopening plan. These concerns are about student, family, staff, and community safety as well as how an ineffective and dangerous reopening plan will cause disproportionate illness and death for students, families, staff, and neighborhoods of color. I have three main questions:

1) How many current administrators and 12-month employees have tested positive for COVID and in what schools?

  • How have you tracked this number (if you have)? What are the procedures and policies for administrators, teachers, and staff who test positive for COVID-19? Currently, there are no guidelines or guidance within Jacksonville for those who have tested positive. There is very little if any contact tracing in the community. Will you contact trace in the schools? For instance, if a MS student in a class tests positive and you become aware of it, will all her/his classmates and teachers then be quarantined? That is a CDC best practice. 

2) Is it true that MS and HS buildings will only be using half of the spaces in each building to save on cleaning costs, thereby negating the social distancing opportunities from only having half the students on campus at one time? If this is true, why has it not been made clear to the public? When parents and students and staff hear about students rotating through the school so only half are there on a given day, the easy assumption is that schools will be optimizing social distancing. We have a right to know if this is not the case. Anything else appears intentionally deceptive. 


3) Do you recognize the racial implications for your reopening plans when people of color are being infected and dying at rates 3x that of whites? Those harrowing statistics are true BOTH national and here locally in Duval. Our nation and community has not only been gripped by the COVID pandemic but also the pandemic of systemic and structural racism. What is a policy that puts at-risk Black and other people of color at a rate 3x that of white people if not an example of systemic racism? 
I’ll end by writing this. I acknowledge you are deciding how to move forward amongst many bad options. I also know that you have been given very little guidance or political cover from the weak, irresponsible, and disastrous leadership being exhibited by Mayor Curry, Governor DeSantis, and the Trump administration. Clearly, they are not prioritizing the safety and health of communities – ours or others – first. However, this makes your leadership even more crucial. Now is the time for educational leaders to demonstrate that the safety and lives of our youth, families, and heroic public educators should come first. Now is the time for you to demonstrate what it looks like to protect, rather than injure, the most vulnerable. Now is the time to demonstrate how these decisions should be made from moral and ethical considerations rather than economic calculations. Finally, reopening plans ARE racial and social justice issues. These are not separate. They are one of the same. Your reopening (or safety and wellness) plans will either disrupt the systemic racism that produces the great disparities in COVID-19 health outcomes for our brothers and sisters and children of color in the community, or your plans will be supporting those racist systems and outcomes through your policies. It is one or the other. Which side are you on?
Respectfully, 
Chris Janson

Teachers want to return but they want their safety concerns addressed too.

Dear Superintendent Dr. Greene, Honorable Chairman Jones, and esteemed DCPS Board Members,

We are extremely excited to reconnect with our students to begin the 20-21 school year. However, as art educators at the elementary and secondary levels, we have the following abbreviated concerns:

1. Because we either serve every student in the building or within our program, we do not understand why masks are not being made mandatory in class, especially with the well-proven data that details the level of risks according to mask usage. When masks are not reciprocal it raises the risk of contraction, and breaks the consistency of habit, as well as sends a message that teachers’ and classmates’ lives are not valued.

2. While we completed the survey in May, Covid-19 data has significantly changed. We have not been given options to safely teach from home as the schedule allows, for example on the designated day when students will be out of the building (secondary).

3. We want to ensure that we, and our students have the tools necessary to deliver a high-quality, engaging art program. Sharing communal supplies as typically practiced, does not follow CDD guidelines. This can be remedied by assembling home kits for students to utilize as needed.

4. Because of the proposed plan to return to school In-Building, especially after most have been in volunteer isolation for several months, we are concerned about being exposed to asymptomatic settings.

5. We have seen public displays of adults behaving poorly; if the proposed health recommendations and requirements are not somehow included in the Student Code of Conduct, these practices will not be taken seriously by our students.

We thank you for your time and consideration for the opportunity to voice our concerns. If the health and safety of all DCPS stakeholders cannot be guaranteed, we strongly urge that the opening of the 20-21 school year begin entirely via Duval Homeroom.

Respectfully Submitted,

Michelle Farah
District 1
Middle School Art
Member of Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team

Sherry Griffith
District 5
Elementary Art
Member of Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team

Kathy Schmidt
Districts 3 and 6
Elementary Art Itinerant
Member of Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team

Online learning is the safest and best option available.

By Whitney Reddick


When contemplating the return to school via face to face learning I have no doubt that the discussion is difficult and pacifying all parties is going to be a tough feat. However, starting school in a face to face setting is a dangerous outset.


The cost both monetary and to safely do so is not a track I am willing to place our students or teachers on as a stakeholder. I want to know what the policy will be for when a child in a classroom becomes ill?


What happens if that teacher has a child that attends another school? Did the district consider spending the money technology, or technical assistance to help safely return instead of going for physical barriers first?


Also, what message are we conveying to our educational community about how much we care? Not just teachers but all those who serve to teach our children daily from janitorial to administration. In all honesty, none. We are telling them that they are expendable. That we want to place them on the front lines to contract the illness and help create herd immunity.


Essentially, we are telling them they do not matter. Why would we risk one of the most valuable resources our community has? These are teachers who, no doubt, want to be back in the classroom yet we are taking away their ability to effectively teach our students by restricting movement, materials (no sharing), true social interactions, and bonding.


A great teacher can bond with students, no matter the setting. Please allow this to occur without a mask, plexiglass, and rigorous hand washing.


Allow our children to grow, for now, via online learning. Another standpoint I have seen parents and community members share is that the effect of distance learning is harming a child’s social abilities.


I would argue this point mute because seeing your friends in person yet having to stay at a safe distance, respond to them through a plexiglass shield, and the lack of true human interaction will, in fact, cause more harm than good.


I feel that when students see their peers, teachers (including resource), and friends online will provide a healthier approach to social interaction for the time being

Lots of questions for DCPS, few answers from them

These were my comments read into the record at the DCPS board meeting.


I do not know a teacher or parent who does not want to start school on time.

We must all remember the district making plans to open up, and parents and teachers who have grave concerns are not enemies of each other, the enemy is the problem we are trying to solve which is how to educate our students while keeping both our staff and our students safe.
I also think everyone should acknowledge all the hard work the district has done preparing to get us back. That being said, I have questions I would like the superintendent and board to answer.
Since the district is knowingly sending teachers into conditions where they may get sick if they do, can teachers sue if they do so?
What about the family of a child, can they sue if the child gets sick, or does that family just assume that risk by sending them to school?
If a teacher must quarantine because of exposure, then their family will as well if the spouse is working, will the district compensate their employer for the time/work missed?
If a spouse of a DCPS employee gets sick, will the district cover all their medical costs and expenses?   
Are teachers going to be expected to teach while quarantined or sick? What about students, what is the expectation for them if they are sent home?
If a teacher exceeds the allotment of missed days because either exposure to or catching the coronavirus, will the district hold their PTO harmless, reimburse any medical costs?
How is the district going to require staff to put an app on their personal devices?
If the app tells an employee to stay home, do they have to use personal or sick leave?
The sad reality is there is no way we can open schools safely. In the spring, we shut down the entire city when there were a few dozen cases, now there are hundreds. It took Florida 111 days to get to 100 thousand cases and then just 13 days to get to 200 thousand.    
We are fooling ourselves if we think things will be much better by the start date. Wouldn’t a better and safer plan to use the time we have left to figure out how to make distance learning better?   
We do so many things out of an abundance of caution, and where I get, we are not throwing caution to the wind, everyone knows schools will be dangerous places that the virus will inevitability find its way into.