The Phoenix Flyer

National organizations urge safe school reopenings, knocking “one-size-fits-all” approach

By: - July 10, 2020 5:11 pm

Classroom. Getty Images.

School officials and health departments should lead the initiative of reopening schools safely, with science driving the decision-making, key national groups said Friday in a written statement.

“Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics,” the organizations said. “We should leave it to health experts to tell us when the time is best to open up school buildings, and listen to educators and administrators to shape how we do it.”

The comments come as COVID-19 cases are surging, particularly in Florida, as the new academic year looms.

This statement came Friday from the nation’s top teacher unions — the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association — as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the AASA, called The School Superintendents Association.

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for return to school decisions,” the groups said.

The organizations’ statement follows comments by President Donald Trump and controversy following an executive order signed by Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, mandating all Florida school districts provide an option of in-person instruction five days a week when schools reopen in August.

This order received praise from the Trump administration, which continues to push for American schools to reopen for the new academic year and threatens to withhold federal funding for schools that do not reopen.

“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff,” the written statement said.

The statewide Florida PTA shared similar sentiments on Friday.

“The overall health, safety and well-being of children and educators must remain a priority as return-to-school plans are designed and implemented,” Florida PTA President Linda Kearschner said in a statement.

“Parents will need options to make the best possible choice for their children, including distance or hybrid learning opportunities,” Kearschner added.

The emergency order disrupted plans of some Florida school districts that decided to reopen with hybrid models, allowing students to rotate between distance learning and in-person instruction. Now, such plans must be approved by the Department of Education, and a five-days in-person instruction option will need to be made available.

South Florida counties such as Palm Beach and Broward are unsure whether their school districts will be able to safely allow students back to brick-and-mortar classrooms, given the large number of infections and deaths from the new coronavirus in those counties. Miami-Dade County has the largest number of COVID-19 cases.

The written statement from the national organizations advise that “schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.