The primary purpose of the K-12 public school system is to deliver instruction. We need to focus on this mission during the current – crisis. Other needs of students and parents may have to be provided differently — or not at all — as long as the pandemic rages.
Florida has a K-12 online instructional program that can deliver instruction to much of our student population. Whether it is more or less effective than traditional classroom instruction is really not the issue. It is the only system we have that is safe for both students and teachers under current circumstances. It should be the primary delivery system until it is safe for everyone to go back to the classroom.
The online program should be able to serve up to 60 percent of students. The other 40 percent, roughly 16,000 of Marion County’s 43,000 students, may need special delivery systems or support services, including on-campus classroom time. The reduced number of students needing to be served on campus allows for the full application of social distancing requirements.
Put another way, the online system should be used to reduce the student population for whom on-campus learning is the only viable option to a point where the social distancing guidelines can be fully implemented. These guidelines have to apply to busing as well as instruction.
It is educational malpractice to force students and teachers to violate social distancing guidelines for K-12 schools during the pandemic. The health risk to students and teachers and the risk to the educational system itself of a significant number of teachers contracting COVID-19 or opting not to teach to protect themselves and their families should be unacceptable to the School Board, the superintendent of schools and the parents of our students.
We have an obligation to act in the best interest of our students and teachers and, if necessary, to ignore the dangerous directives of our governor and the Department of Education. He may be willing to sacrifice our kids and teachers to some other policy consideration, but we should not.
Peter Bowers is a businessman and former educator. He lives in northwest Marion County.