Parents unsettled on how, when children should return to school

Reactions mixed on continuing virtual lessons, getting back into classrooms

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CLAY COUNTY – As the school board mulls over how best to begin the 2020-21 school year during the COVID-19, parents are split on what it should look like when students return in August.

Despite the state’s ongoing reopening after shutting down due to the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t yet officially announced a school return plan. The Clay County School District is already having discussions about what education should look by creating a committee to examine options.

School board members recently mentioned several different solutions for the upcoming school year. They’ve pondered masks being mandatory or optional. They’ve discussed additional sanitizing supplies. They’ve even discussed a hybrid model that sees students learning some days at school and others at home.

Clay County parent Angie Stephenson believes the hybrid model to be the right solution.

“Depending on the percentage of students that want to come back versus continuing online, I would feel comfortable with 50% [of students] for two days, Wednesday dedicated to sanitizing and then the other 50% for two days,” Stephenson said. “Three days of online lessons to be completed related to lessons on the two days of physical instruction.”

Many, including Edward Gomez, believe that the upcoming school year should return as it normally would any other year. He said there’s no need for a mask and that instead, focus should be put on keeping students and equipment clean. Students should have their temperatures screened daily, Gomez said.

Nancy Thomson agreed and said students should return as they normally would but should continue their education virtually if their health is compromised. Eric Newcom said his child hated distance learning during the final months of the recent school year, and he believes students should return to school for at least three days a week.

“The herd will catch this,” Newcom said. “Why prolong the spread?”

Stephenson disagreed with Newcom’s question, citing not everyone can fight off the virus as effectively as others. She said her mother died “due to this exact situation.”

Stephenson continued and said until a vaccine is made, health-compromised students and faculty should do whatever they feel is right to remain safe from the virus. Rebecca-Jane Grimm brought attention to the question of “special needs” students.

“As a parent of a special need child – actually two – they have individualized education programs in Clay County,” Grimm said. “I think that is what is forgotten here. Those children with special needs – their needs, their feelings, their immune systems – are [not being discussed]. They are people just like you and I and they deserve rights just as much as we deserve ours in this life so let’s talk about [thinking] it’s not safe enough to go to school just yet.”

Grimm also said the option should be up to the parents so that they can determine if their children are healthy enough to return to school if the possibility of being exposed to the virus is likely higher.

The 2020-21 school year is less than two months away so official announcements regarding a return to schools from the governor’s office and the Clay County School District aren’t too far away.

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