The challenges of opening school in the fall — in Florida and other states

Schools
School entrance sign. Photo, CD Davidson-Hiers

Teachers, administrators and families want to get kids back in the classroom when it’s safe, but shortages of custodians, bus drivers, and personal protective equipment concern educators as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

As Florida’s State Board of Education begins to set goals for reopening schools, the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) are concerned for students’ well-being and the logistics of students returning to schools.

The groups hosted a virtual press conference on the issues earlier this week.

Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the NEA teacher’s union, also discussed the lack of funding and resources for school to reopen safely. García worries that additional responsibilities will fall on teachers.

“I bought my own kids art supplies. I can’t buy my kids coronavirus tests. We can’t pull that out of our back pockets,” she said. “There is nothing in a school budget to buy that.”

Schools will need funds for personal protective equipment and school psychiatrists for student mental health guidance, according to Garcia.  She also said that schools will need a larger support staff, including additional custodians to ensure proper sanitation.

School districts may require buses to function at limited capacities to maintain social distancing recommendations. This means schools will need additional drivers and buses to ensure every student gets to school.

In addition, some schools are considering having students learn in shifts to keep class sizes down.

Lara Center, an elementary school library aide, addressed the emotional and mental well-being of students when they return to school. She participated at the town hall with the NEA and national PTA.

“Students will return with emotional trauma and will require a period of adjustment as they reintegrate into the rhythm of being back in school—but with only half their peers present,” Center said.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.