August 8, 2021 - over 17 months of COVID
One year ago, I wrote this article: Back to School in Florida and Other Openings amid Worst Coronavirus Numbers where I talked about how Florida was ranking 2nd highest in number of positive coronavirus cases among the U.S. States, just as school was getting ready to start.
All public schools in Florida are starting back up in August, most of which are starting the week of August 10th. And once again, it coincides with some of the worst cases in Florida peaking with new Delta variant of COVID. Unfortunately, once again, there is a huge debate over what to do about the safety at schools.
There are differences between this year and last. In 2020, the schools took precautions and delayed start dates, offered more options for parents to keep their kids home, and required strict protocols for staying safe for those who were attending school. There were concerned teachers and parents who didn't want to return and others who just wanted to go back to school.
Since 2020, Florida's Governor DeSantis signed a Spring Education and Assurance to guarantee a brick and mortar option for all students in the state of Florida and to remain open. And more recently, Governor's Executive Order 21-175 makes masks optional for students. This has been a polarizing issue as leaders of school districts want to require masks and Florida's governor is very adamantly saying that children and parents should get to choose.
Governor DeSantis has decided that being right is more important the the lives of the people in his state. He has now threatened to withhold the pay of superintendents and school board members who ignore his executive order banning mask mandates for schools. He seems to have forgotten that his job is not about winning conservative points, it's about delegating the decision to the leaders of the individual school systems and health experts so that lives in his state can be saved.
Let's be clear about this. Because our governor has decided that COVID isn't worth worrying about, Florida is now breaking records on number of daily cases (and deaths). And because he doesn't care about following the advise of health experts, he is willing to risk the lives of our children (and teachers). Rather than protect the children, Governor DeSantis is threatening the school district leaders for wanting to protect the children. Is a mask more important to fight against than protecting people's lives? Many schools are not backing down and claim DeSantis is acting unconstitutionally. He does not have ultimate power to decide these things.
While I hear the Governor's and Parent's frustrations over children wearing masks, guidelines on wearing masks and/or requiring vaccines are not taking away personal freedoms anymore than any other guideline or law a society puts in place for the safety of it's people. And it is weird to see someone in authority so vehemently opposing authority.
Here's the thing. I completely understand the personal freedoms that people want to preserve. Back when seatbelts became law, I opposed it and thought "how dare they try to tell me what to do in my own car." I didn't want to wear one. But then I did my research. I learned about how seatbelts will actually save you in an accident. I learned about the statistics of dying rather than living if I didn't have my seatbelt on. Of course there were a few, very small percentage of accidents, where the seatbelt hindered the wearer. But it seemed like the chances of that were so much less than the chance of dying without it. I didn't question that the facts weren't real. I just started to wear my seatbelt. It was really hard at first. I truly felt like my rights as an individual to make my own decisions was being hindered.
It turns out, now I feel protected and normal wearing a seatbelt in the car. It is part of our daily lives and no one questions their right to choose or their freedom being taken away because they have to wear a seatbelt by law. We just do it. Just like we just wear shirts and shoes inside most establishments. We vaccinate our children after they are born to protect them from serious diseases. We don't walk into a school carrying a gun or allow our kids to. We don't allow our 5 year old to drive a vehicle. Need I go on? We have to have rules in a society and of course, some of them you may not agree with, some of them may make you feel like you are losing a freedom and a right to choose, but in order to be civilized, we have to do some things we may not like.
We as a society and community need to come together, read the facts, and start acting like people who care about each other. If you oppose the masks, please be nice to those who are wearing one to protect you. Please wear one when it is enforced by a business or school. Whatever side you are on, please be nice to teachers and respect the school administrators, even if our Governor is not setting a good example in showing them proper respect.
Please visit your schools website for answers on safety within their particular school and how they are handling it. If they do not have the details on their website, call them and ask for guidelines.
This is not an easy situation for parents, students or teachers. It is completely understandable that everyone wants to stop wearing masks, stop talking about COVID and just get back to life as normal. But that can't happen until we beat this virus, and we can't beat it, until everyone gets vaccinated and/or complies with safety guidelines to stop the spread.
Florida Department of Education offers guidelines and information in their #COVIDStopsWithMe Toolkit.
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