If coronavirus closes schools, Internet may not be alternative here

Officials at Indian River County School District and St. Edward’s School say if their schools are forced to shut down due to coronavirus, the school year will likely expand into the summer.

Public and private school officials say they are trying to craft plans that would allow students to study and submit schoolwork to teachers via the Internet, but acknowledge those plans are unlikely to work.

“Unfortunately, some of our students don’t have Internet access or computers at home,” said Monica Jennings, director of marketing at St. Edward’s. “It’s one of the hurdles we’re faced with.”

Indian River School District already has a portal in place that allows students to submit homework, said Christen Maddox, the district’s public information officer. But the district faces the same challenge as St. Ed’s on a greater scale – many students don’t have Internet access at home.

“Superintendent Moore has talked about renting building space where students could go to do their work and have Internet access,” Maddox said. “But we realize that’s kind of unrealistic – if the coronavirus virus did happen here, it wouldn’t be just schools that are affected, it would be a community-wide shut down.”

Most likely, school days would have to be made up if schools are forced to close, Jennings and Maddox said. Both are currently scheduled to wrap up the school year at the end of May

Concerns about the virus have schools struggling to make long- and short-term plans for what to do if infection becomes widespread in the county.

Indian River County School District last week provided two days of training for custodians to teach them proper cleaning procedures.

In addition, the district has formed a school employee task force that meets daily to review coronavirus updates and discuss district efforts, Maddox said.

At St. Edward’s, the school’s 11 Chinese exchange students were not allowed to return to China this week, which is spring break for students, Jennings said.

Looking ahead, St. Edward’s is planning to livestream graduation ceremonies in May if the coronavirus remains an issue and students’ parents cannot travel to the U.S., Jennings said.

The Chinese students will likely remain in the U.S. with their host families after the school year ends if the virus remains a health concern in China and prevents their return.

Officials at St. Edward’s and Indian River County School District recently began educating students, parents and school employees about the virus.

In both cases, principals and teachers have placed informational posters in classrooms explaining safety precautions such as frequently washing hands and to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

St. Ed’s and the school district have sent parents information about the coronavirus and reassured them proactive measures are being taken to keep students safe.

“We are working in partnership with our local Health Department to stay informed with accurate and up to date information regarding the virus,” stated a letter Superintendent David Moore recently sent to parents in the school district. “Our daily cleaning schedules will continue in all of our schools and buildings, using hospital grade disinfectants and our state-of-the art cleaning technology.”

In addition to sending letters home to parents, the district has also posted information about the disease on the district’s website, www.indianriverschools.org.

As of Monday, school officials had not yet canceled any sports events or school trips, but the coronavirus threat has affected several school-related events.

The State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida recently announced its annual statewide science contest scheduled for March 26-28 has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

More than 950 Florida students, including dozens from Indian River County were scheduled to compete.

Comments are closed.