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Duval County teachers, parents voice opinions on school district’s reopening plan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Teachers and parents didn’t hesitate to share their concerns as the apparent final draft of Duval County Public Schools’ reopening plan was presented to the School Board on Thursday.

Many of them told News4Jax delaying the start date and staggering class schedules for students isn’t enough to make them feel secure. They encouraged the Duval County School Board to reconsider all the elements inside the plan, which School Board members approved early Thursday evening.

“First off, I’m not sending my son back to school with whatever decision they make today,” Channikka Turner, a parent in the school system, said ahead of the vote.

Teachers wore red inside Thursday’s School Board meeting to symbolize public education. News4Jax was told this may have been the last time they were able to voice their opinions about the plan.

Randy Lessen teaches at Sandalwood High, the largest school in Duval County. He feels plans to delay the school start date and shift class schedules aren’t enough for his school’s population.

“Even if they did stagger, like I said, I work in a school with 3,000 kids -- 1,500 kids even is still concerning because then you’re wasting time just getting them into school,” he said. “Let’s do virtual for the first nine weeks and then see where we are and see if the cases have gone down.”

Savannah Ridgley feels maintaining the need to keep schools safe will be a problem for her school.

“I am a teacher. I’ve seen what my classroom looks like when we have our normal protocols in place. We don’t have the resources to sustain people going back to class and we don’t have a low enough count throughout Duval to be able to sustain going back to class and have sufficient contact tracing right now,” Ridgely said.

She said the only way she feels comfortable going back is if it’s virtual but said the schools aren’t kept up with enough, even before the virus.

“There have been days where they just don’t have the cleaning staff to do more than take out my trash, and I’m expecting that this is going to magically change because they said we have to be cleaner,” Ridgley explained.

News4Jax ran into another parent at the meeting who said she’s ready for her children to get back to their normal schedule.

“I’d like to see the kids get back into a routine. I’m not worried for their safety. I think that the school is going to do a good job of keeping them safe and hopefully keeping the teachers safe, as well,” said Anne Odell.


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