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?
Chris Janson

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