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Ready or not: Duval one week out from 90,000 students back in school

First Coast News brought this question to parents, teachers, school staff: Do you think the district is ready?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Ready or not, Duval County is one week away from almost 100,000 children returning to school.

First Coast News brought this question to parents, teachers, school staff: Do you think the district is ready?

Parents still have questions. A common concern is that students, teachers and staff will not be able to stick to the district's safety protocols all day every day.

"I think it might be hard to manage for the whole six, seven hours," said Rolline Sullivan, a parent who also works with the Duval County Pandemic Solutions Team.

Sullivan has four kids in the Duval County school system. They'll be learning online partly because of this concern.

Some teachers also voice concerns about social distancing among themselves. Wednesday was teachers' first day back to school for pre-planning. 

One teacher told First Coast News, "Fully grown adult teachers aren't able to follow the social distancing and mandated mask wearing as we return to schools today, but we expect our students to successfully do it?"

Duval Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene answered questions from the community in a Facebook town hall Wednesday evening.

"We added an additional support for teachers for face shields, but it is a requirement that they wear a facial covering because we know there will be times where there won't be six feet of social distancing," she said.

Greene says parents should get a call or email this week outlining plans. This includes help needed with Duval HomeRoom, which is something Sullivan has been waiting for.

"The Duval HomeRoom option of it feels like we're behind," Sullivan said. "We don't know as much."

Rezell Carbert is a mother of three, but only one of her children is returning to school in person. That's because her daughter is entering high school at Douglas Anderson School for the Arts. She says she'll be communicating with her daughter every day about if she feels safe.

Sullivan feels the district is not ready to open, though other parents have said they're excited to get back. First Coast News also asked the district for Dr. Greene to answer if she believes the district is ready, but were told she could not do an interview Wednesday and didn't hear back with an emailed answer.

UPDATE: DCPS Chief of Marketing and Public Relations Tracy Pierce replied in an email, answering the questions. They are below.

1. Now that we're a week out, does Dr. Greene/DCPS feel the schools and teachers are ready for 90,000 children?

2. Does Dr. Greene/DCPS feel the schools are prepared to handle a positive case in a school?

Yes, we will be ready on Aug. 20. Teachers are back today, and plans made over the summer are now going into implementation.

3. I've also had parents tell me they're worried about protocols being able to be followed all day, every day. How is DCPS reassuring parents?

Yes, we are prepared to handle COVID impacts. Schools have procedures to isolate and monitor students who arrive sick or who begin to display symptoms during the school day. We have also created rapid response teams of health care professionals to implement contact tracing and other measures if COVID-19 impacts a member of a school community. We are prepared to move individual classrooms and full schools to distance learning through Duval HomeRoom if needed. Remember, last year, we invented and moved the entire district to Duval HomeRoom in less than a week.

First, protocols for health and safety are a team effort. Parents need to keep students home if they are sick. Students need to wear their face coverings, social distance, and clean their hands frequently. Over the next several days leading up to the first day of school, we are releasing a series of videos reminding everyone of their role and the steps we are taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  

Second, each year is a learning process, but it doesn’t take long for students to learn and adhere to new expectations. This year, the motivation to adhere to the protocols should be very high because maintaining the in-school attendance option requires everyone to do their part to keep the school community as healthy as possible.

Finally, this is why parents have choices. Parents who prefer an at-home learning option can still put in a late application for Duval HomeRoom.

Read the DCPS reopening plan here.

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