Experts say schools can likely open this fall with guidelines in place

Published: May 7, 2020 4:35 PM EDT
Updated: May 14, 2020 3:10 PM EDT

As we go through phases to reopen, we looked at what schools are doing to prepare for the possibility of kids coming back.

Experts predict schools like Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School in Fort Myers can reopen in the fall as long as school districts find ways to keep students practicing social distancing in the classroom. But parents we spoke to say it’s too early to really decide if it’s safe yet.

For almost two months, Florida parents have become the teachers for their children, including Stephanie Cotillo to her soon to be kindergartner, Cole.

“For now, the plan is he’s probably going to start right on time,” Cotillo said.

As restrictions loosen across the state, the question has become whether students should return to their classrooms for the next school year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says yes.

“We would like for those children to have that socialization,” said Dr. Sally Goza, the president of the academy. “And for the kids, we do believe that in-school learning is probably best for a lot of children, better than online learning.”

Goza says, if schools reopen, it should come in phases and with social distancing.

“I think children, if you can get them to wear a mask in the schools, good sanitization in the schools,” Goza said. “Good ways to isolate children if they are sick or become sick in school and ways to not have children congregate like in cafeterias and things like that.”

Goza says parents should still be prepared for schools to shut down again. Doctors worry a second wave of the virus might strike around the beginning of next school year.

“I truly believe we will be practicing those social distancing, or as I like to call it physical distancing, at least until we have a vaccine and we can get that vaccine widely used and spread amongst the community because I don’t believe this virus is going to go away.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks, even if schools reopen in the fall, it might take some time for sports and school athletics to come back because will be hard to practice social distancing.

Either way, Cotillo says she’ll have to see how the virus plays out before ultimately deciding if it’s safe for her 5-year-old to school.

“We’re just playing it by ear,” Cotillo said. “Not sure how I’ll feel about it in a couple of months.”