BY ANDREAS BUTLER
It’s summertime, and kids are set to return to school in August in Volusia County.
Originally, schools were set to start on Aug. 17. But the primary election will occupy many schools which will serve as voting sites,pushing schools to start later.
Pressure to open
Both the national and state governments are calling for schools to be open at full capacity in the fall. Florida has given its school districts until July 31 to submit their reopening plans. There will be enhanced safety measures as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic which shut schools down nationwide back in March.
On Wednesday, the Volusia County School District discussed its plan to restart schools in the fall during a special meeting which was after the Daytona Times’ Wednesday night deadline.
Meanwhile, local residents gave their thoughts about restarting schools in the fall.
‘Not enough protection’
Margaret Harrison has two grandchildren that she cares form who attend Atlantic High in Port Orange.
Harrison told the Daytona Times, “I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s not enough protection or knowledge. I don’t think the school is ready to be open yet.”
Nakita Byrd has three schoolage children in the public school system; two in elementary and one in middle school. She trusts that the schools will be safe.
“I’m ready for them to go back. They miss their friends and teacher. I am sure they will have safety measures in place,” said Byrd.
LaShay Habuda has a child who will be starting kindergarten. She’s concerned.
“I don’t think kids should go back to school this year. I do not think it’s safe,” she explained.
Arthur Westbrook teaches English at Mainland High in Daytona Beach. He’s ready to go back to class.
“I have no problem going back. I just want everyone to be safe. There are some faculty and staff that are afraid of getting the virus from kids,” explained Westbrook.
Masks should be required
Parents also discussed the mask-wearing situation.
Volusia County prefers that masks be worn, but doesn’t mandate them.
Currently, the city of Daytona Beach has a policy that masks must be worn in public buildings, but schools located in Daytona’s city limits are exempted from that requirement.
Turie T. Small Elementary, Westside Elementary, Longstreet Elementary, Champion Elementary, Palm Terrace Elementary, Ortona Elementary, Campbell Middle, Hinson Middle, Mainland High, Seabreeze High and Richard Milburn Academy are all in Daytona’s city limits.
“If schools do open, they should absolutely have everyone wearing a mask,” said Habuda. Byrd agreed: “They should wear masks. Everyone should.”
Harrison took it a step further. “I think all kids should be mandated to wear masks as well as teachers, administrators and staff. If they want the kids in school, they should supply them what they need. They need to supply the teachers, too. Teachers are putting their lives on the line then going home to their kids and relatives.”
Parents also spoke about their at-home learning experiences during the spring where kids did online learning or take-home packets. Experiences varied.
“It was horrible. The kids lost focus quicker than being together and tried to watch television instead. The kids were also at home bored. They focus more in a classroom structure,” Byrd said.
Harrison added, “At home was fine. Parents need to put their foot down and sit down with their kids to make sure their work is being done. Nobody cares more about your child’s education and future more than you.”
At-home learning was different for teachers, too.
Westbrook noted, “I wasn’t used to it. Once I got used to it, it was fine. I am used to being hands-on. I missed the students. I am for it (online learning) if that is what we have to do to keep everyone safe.”
School Board Chair Ida Duncan-Wright did not return phone calls for comment as of the Daytona Times’ Wednesday deadline.