Nassau County teachers concerned about social distancing in classrooms

Parents of nearly 10,000 students say they've chosen 'brick-and-mortar' option

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – The parents of nearly 10,000 students in Nassau County say they have chosen the “brick-and-mortar” option of returning their children to campus.

Teachers are now expressing their concerns over class size and proximity between students.

While classrooms will be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected daily to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the reopening plan, which the Nassau County School Board approved Thursday, says that 6 feet of distance between students will not be possible in most classrooms.

That’s worrying some teachers with bigger class sizes.

Fernandina Beach High School and Middle School Theater Director Matthew Eldridge-Bratsch told School Board members that last year, he taught two classes in one period with 47 students.

“No windows, one room,” Eldridge-Bratsch said. “There wasn’t any flexibility”

He says there's no way to safely keep that amount of students apart.

Eldridge-Bratsch says the school district’s original reopening draft plan had recommended class sizes of 22 in middle school and 25 at high school. He says those recommendations are not included in the current plan.

“I was promised this year that I would have two periods at Fernandina Beach with three sections. According to Focus, right now, I’m one period, three sections, so if I had to guess, I would imagine that I would be over fifty students,” Eldridge-Bratsch said.

News4Jax also couldn’t find mention of maximum class size in the Nassau County School District’s approved reopening plan.

Eldridge-Bratsch isn’t just worried about the number of students he teaches but the subject he teaches.

“Especially in the arts, we are working with students that are issuing a level of droplets that while talking. We’re recommending 6 feet. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending that any type of singing is a 20-foot separation,” Eldridge-Bratsch said.

He ended by asking the School Board members to consider making a countywide class size amendment. They thanked him for his comment and moved to the next public speaker.

Earlier this month, Florida’s largest teachers union sued the state, asking a judge to stop Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran from requiring the return of in-person schooling without first reducing class sizes.

The governor has said that the impact of class size is not significant, as Florida’s class sizes are already constitutionally mandated to be small.

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