FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said students may not return to the classroom if COVID-19 numbers don’t improve.
The superintendent made the announcement during a virtual workshop held on Tuesday, 35 days before the start of the new school year.
“I have said that at every discussion about reopening schools that we will not compromise the health and safety of our students, teachers and staff,” Runcie said. “When we open schools in the fall, I am recommending that instruction will be 100% e-learning. That is the only way we can educate our students while keeping them and their teachers healthy and safe. When conditions improve — and we hope it will not be too distant — additional options will be introduced including face to face learning five days per week.”
More than 130,000 Broward County families have filled out the district’s survey asking parents how they would like to reopen schools, which remains open for parents to answer.
According to the survey, 32% prefer to continue e-learning, 35% prefer e-learning and face-to-face and 31% prefer face-to-face five days a week.
For some teachers, like Sara Voss, Runcie’s announcement was a relief.
“For the first time in my 17-year career, I’m scared,” she said.
The Broward Teacher’s Union said around 70% of the nearly 11,000 members who responded to their survey want to continue online learning when school picks back up.
Runcie said they are planning for when schools are ready to reopen and children can safely return to class.
However, based on current numbers, he is doubtful that they will reach that point in a month, at the start of the regular school year.
“Given where we are now, and the trend lines that we just heard — and they’re not getting better — I don’t see how literally within a month that we would be able to open schools in a manner that we desire to do,” he said. “To do that, our school district needs your help. It will require each and every one of us to help contain community spread by wearing masks and physical distancing. There is no other way.”
President Donald Trump, however, has threatened to withhold federal funding should school districts not reopen in the fall.
“The level of risk to school-aged kids for whatever reason, those 18 and under, are at significantly less risk than certainly the 65 and under and even the general population,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a roundtable discussion on Tuesday.
But Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert countered the governor’s statement saying it’s not just the students at risk of catching the virus.
“We’re using school as this generic term because it’s kids going to school, but when you break it down into component parts, it’s cafeteria workers and it’s them touching the same keyboards and their personal interactions and it’s teachers and it’s the bus drivers,” Gilbert said.
Dr. Michael Ryan, the Executive Director for the World Health Organization, said reopening schools is not a political issue.
“We can’t turn schools into yet another political football in this game,” he said. “It’s not fair on our children.”
Miami-Dade County, meanwhile, has their own version of a survey asking parents how they would like to reopen schools.
Graduates of Miami Sunset Senior High School sent Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho a letter regarding the reopening of schools.
“Today, a handful of alumni, some of whom are current teachers, are joining me in this letter urging you and other local leaders to make the right decision and halt all plans to reopen Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” the letter said.
“While education is important, there is nothing that we should ever put our lives at risk for,” Marcus Frias, a graduate of Miami Sunset Senior High School, said.
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