I am writing both as an employee and as a parent of two children who attend school in the district. I implore you to make masks a priority along with social distancing of at least six feet. Furthermore, the training for faculty and staff must be absolute and clear. Consequences for students who are non-compliant with safety measures must also be determined and consistent across the county.
The CDC suggests that "Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult."
We know that class sizes are not going to be brought down to safe sizes in Clay as the money isn't there to hire more teachers and build more classrooms. If you've ever spent any time inside a portable classroom, you are aware that space is limited and there will be absolutely no way to maintain safe spacing in this environment. Therefore, it is imperative that students and faculty be mandated to wear masks.
Air quality in portable classrooms is also going to be a concern. We have recently put security measures in place where our doors must be closed and locked at all times while keeping windows closed and blinds down. That policy will also have to be reconsidered. I would also encourage the district to look into improving the types of filters put into the air conditioning/heating units. Past practice seems to have been using the cheapest material possible. Current health considerations mandate change.
We also know that many of our teachers in Clay are not in good health and any exposure to this virus puts lives at risk. As you move forward and make your policy, you must accept the fact that the less stringent you are in drafting COVID-19 back to school policy, the more responsible you will be when lives are taken. I am certain there will be sickness and death in our county as we go back to school. It is imperative that the sick leave policies are updated and refined in relation to COVID-19.
When Gov. (Ron) DeSantis reopened Florida back in May saying the worst was behind us, he was ignoring the science and ignorantly hoping for the best. He berated reporters and lashed out at the facts and data. Now look at where we are today. You have a strong, strong example of what not to do. When schools are beginning to reopen, it will be worse than the crowding at bars and restaurants. Classrooms are tight spaces and teenagers are not unlike bar patrons often shunning safety protocols by forgoing social distancing, laughing, shouting, and acting impulsively.
I strongly and emphatically urge you to put politics aside at this time and rely on the science that our doctors and pathologists share as that will be the only way we deal with this effectively, if we even can at all. As leaders of our outstanding educational institution please lead by example and use science and fact in your decision-making process. The lives of our students, our faculty, and our staff are in your hands.
Dylan E. Fagan