Monday, July 13, 2020


I am a public school science teacher.
I am 62 years old.
I have taught for 32 years.
I may not return to the'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.


Mrs. Irizarry said...

I honestly could not have said more or any better. Thank you so much. Liz has been and will stay in our prayers. 💙

roger said...

hard choices for all of us, especially for parents of school age children. horrible decisions by our national and state governments have kept our country dangerous for us all.

stay safe fc and mrs fc. thank you both.

kevin said...

Raymond, as you probably would guess, Kelly has been involved with St Johns County's plan to return to school since the beginning. We've talked at length about most of the issues you mentioned. And as you may have also guessed, I see things from a different point of view.
First, you know I work as a state employee supporting the Florida National Guard. Masks are not mandatory for us. A lot of people wear them but it's not required.
One of the many things we've talked about is who supply's the masks? A lot of parents don't feed their kids, do you think they'll buy them masks? Which leads to the Virtual School. Parents that don't feed their kids aren't going to take much interest in their unsupervised virtual learning. And, even if the parents do take interest, if both parents work who will be home with the kids? Some kids may be able to stay home alone and get their work done. That would not have worked for me.
If you keep all the kids home, what do you do with all the bus drivers, maintenance workers, office workers, para-pro workers, etc that are no longer needed? I guess they could get jobs baby sitting.
Back to the masks, they are not made to be used all day much less multiple times. Are you going to provide HAZMAT disposal bins? That would be the easiest problem to solve. But they really shouldn't be tossed out with the rest of the garbage.
That being said, we wear them most of the time in public places. I don't know the right answer, but I see the problems most of the options present. What would you do if your kids were 6, 8 and 10 and you both had to work?

robin andrea said...

This is such a challenging time in so many ways. I worry about students and teachers, and I worry so much about the front line medical staff at hospitals. You and Liz are the compassionate role models who now have to figure out how to proceed and stay safe. I wish there were answers while we wait for vaccines. I like the idea of virtual classrooms until this all gets worked out. Please take care, stay safe and healthy.

Island Rider said...

I hear you.

Joey B said...

Science has taken a backseat with this whole thing. It’s ridiculous... the only thing more ridiculous is that the people who caused it will never be held accountable.

John Noble said...

Probably because you work with a state guard unit. Federal side for those in the NCR/Maryland/Virginia is to mask up even in the office.

Ms. Moon said...

I have three grandchildren who will probably be going back to face-to-face school in August. I hate this. My husband and I have offered to "subsidize" my daughter so that she won't have to work but for several reasons, she doesn't want to do this. It has been a huge struggle for her to find peace with any decision. I do not envy her at all
I wish, oh how I wish! that our government would keep the schools closed for now and spend resources on making virtual learning better.
But of course that won't happen.

kevin said...

John Noble, you're probably right. Different commands will have different policies. Some people where I work wear them, some don't. I wear one in most public places, but I think it should be up to the individual. There are enough criminals out there without creating new ones.

On a side note, the people that wear them with their nose exposed make me wonder what they're trying accomplish.

Dina said...

This is not a question. You should only do online teaching at this point. Life is to short.

Anonymous said...

Schools solve the child care issue so parents can work...until they cant and have to stay home 14 days when their child gets sick with it and possibly another 14 if they get it or a sibling or spouse. In the end, they'll have missed a lot of work anyway and contracted a disease we know little about for the long term effects. I'd say school needs to be pushed back, but Florida seems to still think this is all a hoax that will disappear in November and refuses to wear a mask to reduce the spread. ��‍♀️��

MyamuhNative said...

What Dina said!
The FC family is too important to risk.

Dani said...

Thank you FC and Liz you both are such wonderful people always helping.❤

It's so scary right now. Liz had to get tested two weeks ago. I have never seen my girl cry as hard as she was the day we found out she had been in contact with a positive. She looked at me and kept saying I'm so sorry, mom. She knows I'm in the vulnerable class with my dystrophy and heart. Came back negative but I don't think I'll ever forget the look of horror on her face thinking she just brought it home to me. 😢 I really wish the craziness would just stop and people would wear a freakin mask.

Anonymous said...

The idea of schools opening to children, who've been spending the past few months with only a certain group of family members, is complete insanity! In one sentence the governor states being inside air conditioned buildings is bad for children. But in the next he states that "children need to go to school" which he must not realize are also air conditioned buildings. Schools should stay closed and learning should be done online for at least the first nine weeks. Around week seven, we may know if another nine weeks of online learning will be necessary. But to expect children to attend school on August 10th is one of the most careless and irresponsible decisions our governor has made to date.

Unknown said...

Y'all make good points.
I know people lose their livelihood, but keep school to online learning only intil we get this mess straightened out.

R.Powers said...

Both my Liz and I had the same reaction to this comment. Your sweet Liz's anguish and fear of infecting you was so selfless and loving ...and yet gut wrenching for parents.
Give that kid a hug from us!
Stay safe!

Mark P said...

Parts of the federal government are taking extreme precautions, including allowing only a minimum number of people to return to their offices, and mandatory mask usage. In one of the federal buildings where I used to work, people have to check in by email when they arrive and check out when they leave. Everyone who takes a covid-19 test is required to quarantine for two weeks, whether they test positive or not. People who had to travel to Hawaii on business had to stay in their hotel rooms for two weeks -- they can't even go to the hotel restaurant. A friend of a friend said a national guardsman checked on her to make sure she was staying in her room. If our own federal government takes it that seriously, despite what we hear from the top, how can we pretend kids and their teachers can do business as usual?

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dominguezmarta said...
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ASTraveller said...

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dominguezmarta said...
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Lodus said...

Did you go back to teaching? I am a retired teacher and thought a lot of what I would have done if faced with the same decision. Hope all is well with you & your family.

Swamp4me said...

Thinking of you and hoping you are well.

ben rita said...
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