PARKLAND, FL- Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie made his final proposal to the school board on Tuesday morning outlining the return to school plan for Broward County. In a ten-minute video presented to the public, Runcie noted the seven workshops that have been held in planning and preparation for the reopening plan and his desire to have students return to in-person school as soon as possible within certain safety guidelines that are recommended by public health experts and infectious disease physicians.
"All of us desperately want our schools to open for face to face learning," said Runcie. "We know how important the work of this district is in meeting the critical needs of our students and families, including providing academic growth and social and emotional development, supplying food and nutritional needs, providing mental health support in identifying child abuse, and giving support to about 5,000 students who struggle with housing insecurity and homelessness."
Runcie shared that though everyone would love to see a transition to in-person learning, our community hasn't reached the needed measurable goals to allow in-person learning yet and that we need to make progress as a community.
"Our collective efforts have been insufficient for the challenge before us," Runcie added.
Runcie outlined three key steps to that must occur for the transition to in-person learning to become possible.
1) Control the spread of the pandemic
2) Develop protocols that provide for health and safety of students, teachers, and staff
3) Provide funding to cover significant shortfalls in revenue and pay for the required protocols and measures needed
Additionally, Runcie shared the key metric that needs to be reached to support a return to in-person learning.
"Public health experts and infections disease physicians recommend that children not go to school until the positive test rate is 3-5% over a rolling two week average. Our local positive test rate is still averaging close to 10%, which is significantly higher than the recommended range to consider reopening schools," he said.
The school district will continue to watch the trends and will revisit the decision on October 1st.
"We will not compromise the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff. That's our highest priority. When we start the school year on August 19th, it will be with a 100% virtual model, or e-learning, for all students."
Another significant challenge is the availability of rapid testing for students and faculty. The availability of the tests could significantly reduce the need to wait days or weeks for results and corresponding disruptions from school. The district continues to lobby for additional funding to support and allow the changes needed.
"Our children are depending on us. We owe it to them and future generations. Let's get it done for their sake," summarized Runcie.