COVID-19 toll on Florida students and their learning time
Tampa Bay, Florida – Just a month into the second year of “pandemic school,” Florida school districts are struggling to keep up.
In Indian River County, positive cases and quarantines forced the district to close two of its schools this week.
“It’s not sustainable when you don’t have the people running the school,” Treasure Coast Elementary Principal said.
Indian River County is one of four Florida school districts that have already taken the drastic measure of school closures amid a widespread Delta outbreak.
While two small school districts in North Florida had to close all of their schools this week due to the virus outbreak on their campuses.
Gulf County School Principal Jim Norton posted on the district’s Facebook page: “I really feel it is necessary in order to build a bridging measure that prevents the virus from spreading more widely.”
From school closures to dozens of classroom quarantines. We have discovered that at least 50 classrooms in 11 school districts have been closed to students since the start of the new school year.
In Pasco County, the virus has led to half a dozen complete classroom quarantines, affecting elementary, middle and high schools, according to district spokesperson Steve Hegarty. So far, more than 13,000 students in the district have been discharged with a positive case or quarantined since the beginning of the year.
“All of these numbers are very worrying, for sure,” Hegarty said.
The closure is not just an inconvenience but a real challenge for counties still trying to figure out how to effectively educate students in quarantine.
Since the state has dropped the e-learning option, the provinces rely on virtual programs including round and google classes but teachers are not a guarantee.
“You’re right, we can’t necessarily force teachers to do one thing or the other, and it depends on whether the teacher feels capable of it,” Hegarty explained. “If the teacher is positive he may not be able to teach,” he said.
In Lee County, nearly 36 classrooms have temporarily closed to students this year.
During a board meeting earlier this week, board member Chris Patricia shared her son’s experience learning to quarantine.
“There was no work in Google Classroom,” said Patricia. “This was a fiasco in those two days for that kid, he learned nothing,” she told the district.
In the larger Hillsborough County, the district is using a mix of virtual programs and will soon introduce a new 24/7 educational program for all students in grades 6-12 regardless of whether they are in quarantine. The district is hiring 10 teachers who will also provide tutoring to students in grades K-5.
“We will assess the request and proceed from there,” a district spokesperson told us.
“Right now, all hands are on deck,” Hegarty said.