Florida Teachers and Parents Anxiously Await School Board Reopening Decisions
With the start of the school year looming next month, parents, teachers, and students wonder what to expect in a pandemic. School boards across the state are drawing up plans to welcome back students, but some educators and parents say it’s too soon.
Parents say they face an impossible choice — prepare to send their child back to a brick-and-mortar school, or try to educate them at home to protect them from coronavirus.
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Rob Paschall is a fifth-grade teacher at West Creek Elementary in Orlando. He’s also a finalist for Florida’s 2021 Teacher of the Year. Paschall joined the Florida Roundup and hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross to discuss what would help him feel safe as he returns to the classroom.
Here’s an excerpt from the conversation:
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
MELISSA ROSS: You’ve said you want a solution that works for all Florida families—that you don't think all distance learning or all in-person classrooms will work. What would you like to see done in Orange County schools?
ROB PASCHALL: The Orange County Public School Board is meeting again right now, after two marathon meetings last Tuesday and then Tuesday earlier this week. It seems that we're looking to propose a third option in addition to face to face, a brick-and-mortar option, and the online version.
An innovative option that would allow students to remain connected to each other and to their teachers. A launch-ed option that could be broadened to allow parents to send their children to school for select days and then to be at home for select days as well. In my opinion, I think offering as many options as possible to families, community members, teachers, students is going to be our best option. It's going to allow fluidity. It's going to allow teachers and families to make the choices that they feel comfortable with.
ROSS: Right. Different families have different needs and concerns. Now as for you, yourself, will you be going back into the classroom five days a week?
PASCHALL: I will. Once a plan has been finalized for Orange County Public Schools, they will be asking parents and teachers, families, community members once again, "What will you be choosing?" And then they'll make decisions from there. One of the survey questions I'm anticipating will be asking me, "Rob, would you be coming to the brick-and-mortar school five days a week, or would you like to be one that's going to be doing online learning only?"
TOM HUDSON: Rob, as a professionally trained school teacher, what kind of advice would you have for a parent-turned-teacher who has decided to homeschool her rising fifth grader?
PASCHALL: Asking your child for their input on their decision and then coming to a consensus on that decision as a family is going to help your son feel much more comfortable about the decision that has been made. It sounds like Hillsborough County, the same with Orange County, is still in the process of working out all of the plans.
I know in Orange County, we will be presenting parents and families and students with options that you could change to a different model halfway through the year. So whatever model that you commit to for the first semester, once things have winded down — or if things have increased, they've gotten worse — that you could change your decision for the second semester of the year.