I am a public school science teacher.
I am 62 years old.
I have taught for 32 years.
I LOVE TEACHING.
I may not return to the classroom...it's difficult to write that.
For half of my life, I've taught science in rural Levy County, Florida. The last 10 years have been spent teaching on an island in the Gulf of Mexico... that's right, an island in the Gulf.
I love my work and my students and have (had?) planned to keep teaching for at least another 5 years.
The Covid-19 Pandemic and the state and county response to it has me questioning that plan. Infections are skyrocketing here in Florida, something completely predictable back in May when the state began reopening after a brief shutdown.
Yesterday, Sunday, July 12, over 15,000 new cases were reported in Florida. The Florida 7-day average Covid-19 positive rate is just under 20% (JohnsHopkins,5am,7.13.20)
(Florida Dept of Health,7.13.20)
So it seems absurd to even consider traditional "kids in seats" school to this science guy...
Our county, like many, is offering 3 options and parents are being surveyed at this time as to their choice.
A. Traditional in the classroom with extra sanitation and prevention procedures.
B. Blended, mostly virtual with a weekly mandatory "in-person" session.
C.Virtual, fully online at home.
Here are some concerns:
1) Our schools do NOT start in the Fall. They start in the Summer, specifically August 10... 28 days from today. We will still be deep in this pandemic at that time.
2) Masks are optional, not mandatory. This is the simplest effective strategy for Covid-19 prevention. We already mandate vaccinations and shoes for students attending school. Both of those are safety rules. Masks are even mandatory in the military, which is full of young, fit people.
Not mandating them reeks of politics, not science.
3) We really don't know how young children will be affected, even if the conventional wisdom says they are less at risk.
In most of the country, they've been out of school since the spring when infections were low.
They have in effect, been out of the mix at home. That ends August 10, for parents who chose the traditional classroom track.
4) Kids infecting older family members at home. I volunteered with our school's food delivery program during the spring shut down and it was often grandma or grandpa that came to the bus to pick up food. Multigenerational families are common in our county.
5) I saved this one for last because it is the most important concern for me. My wife is a public health nursing director. Every day, she is on the frontlines of the Covid-19 fight with her team testing and contact tracing.
She and her team ALWAYS wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when they are testing and contacting the public. Since April, I've hardly seen her. She works late into the night and weekends trying to contain this disease.
She is tested frequently and so far those safety protocols at the Health Department seem to work.
Without giving out her personal medical information, let's just say she falls into the "at-risk" population due to several health issues.
Except for my age, I don't.
The concern that keeps me worried about going back into a classroom situation is this:
When school starts I will become the weak link in her circle of protection.
Professionally, she is doing everything right to prevent infection, and we both wear masks in public, but not at home.
What if I bring the virus home from school and infect her?
What cruel irony that would be.
The optimist in me thinks we may have some type of vaccine by late spring.
I'm not advocating for no school until then, but it should all be virtual, at least for the first semester, and then we assess the situation and proceed according to the data at that time.
Lastly, I am a parent of 3 wonderful kids who are all grown now.
If they were school age, I would not choose the classroom option that Levy County is offering. We would be virtual or maybe blended depending on the details of that one.
Stay safe everyone. I'll get back to some nature posts here on Pure Florida soon.
I just needed to get this off my chest.