The video of pandemic-era classroom offers no consolation to parents who voiced concerns about their kids losing "social skills developmental" opportunities by attending classes online.
A school district in Florida added to the already heated debate of reopening schools amid the pandemic after it released a promotional video depicting what a school day will look like in these current circumstances. The video posted online by the Manatee County School District drew widespread ridicule and horror as netizens remarked on how different and demoralizing the classroom experience would be for children. The clip went viral online after Tiffany Jenkins, a mom-of-three who lives in a nearby town shared the video to TikTok, calling it "apocalyptic" and like "an M Night Shyamalan movie."
Florida overtook New York in #COVID19 cases, the 2nd state to do so (after CA, which has 2X the population).— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 27, 2020
19% of tests are coming back positive — almost 4x WHO recommended levels for reopening — but officials are still planning to reopen schools, despite teacher outcry. pic.twitter.com/gGHuXrDCSx
The school district's informatory video features teachers in shields, masks, and lab coats while students in masks are seen maintaining strict social distancing measures in the classroom and at lunch. While many parents voiced concerns about their kids losing "social skills developmental" opportunities by attending classes online, going by the video, there won't be many socializing opportunities in a pandemic-era traditional classroom either. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Erica Howard—the parent of a child enrolled in Manatee County's school district—said that she was "really sad" upon watching the video and doesn't believe the reopening plan is "realistic."
Florida’s Governor won’t even discuss reopening safety with our FEA! As teachers- we want to be in school with our kiddos- BUT we are concerned about their safety, our safety, and our/their families. Somehow he and other leaders have made us villans saying we don’t want to work! pic.twitter.com/YhKYMVaH9O— tkmagicgirl (@KicklighterTia) August 1, 2020
"The fact they expect this to happen — expecting kids to sit at tables away from each other, having fields between them, especially preschoolers and kindergarteners... I didn't think it was realistic," said the mother-of-three. "Schools need to open for parents who have to work and can't be with their kids during the day but what they're projecting is unrealistic."
Meanwhile, Jenkins—whose reaction video has gained quite a bit of attention on TikTok—explained that she saw many parents posting the video to Facebook and complaining. Although her kids attend a different school district nearby, she couldn't help but be affected by the drastically different school environment depicted in the video.
When I worked as a self-contained #SpEd teacher, I described my job as being akin to a lifeguard: I always had my head on a swivel, always had to look out for danger, always had to make sure all my students were accounted for. It was exhausting.— Adriana White, MLIS (@Adriana_Edu) July 31, 2020
Teachers are going to burnout.
Teachers are going to burnout, and kids are going to get upset.— Adriana White, MLIS (@Adriana_Edu) July 31, 2020
Little ones aren't going to understand why they can't sit with or talk to their friends. They're not going to go along with wearing masks & face shields all day. They're going to feel their teachers' stress & fear.
I get that people want to get back to normal. Many have good intentions. But watching this video, I can't help but feel incredibly sad.— Adriana White, MLIS (@Adriana_Edu) July 31, 2020
Going back to school in-person is not going to work. Not right now. Maybe not until we have a vaccine.
It won't be good for our mental health.
"It made me sad how different the experience would be," she said about watching it. "It feels like a punishment for the kids. That makes me sad. The kids are kids. The idea that they have to focus on distancing, or to keep their masks on to be so far from their friends, it’s heartbreaking." Many of her followers online shared similar sentiments, with TikTok user Mary Devlin commenting: I FEEL IF WE NEED TO TAKE STUDENTS TEMPERATURE AND HAVE ALL OF THESE EXTREME MEASURES MAYBE ITS NOT TIME TO GO BACK.
Aside from the reopening promotional video, the school district also released guidelines on its website, offering parents three options for their children: five days a week of in-person learning, a five-day hybrid of learning at school, and at home, and five days of virtual classes. However, Howard revealed that while schools are scheduled to reopen on August 18, many parents are still unclear about certain aspects including the number of students who have elected to return and how school officials will manage the size and traffic of them all.
This is a fantasy land nightmare of impossible proportions and lethal stakes. Nothing about this video is real or reassuring in the least. It's not my district, but it doesn't matter. This place is risking kids and teachers with a terrible plan.https://t.co/nWB2zSocGU— Doug Robertson (@TheWeirdTeacher) August 1, 2020
Howard also expressed concern about teachers having to "spend their whole time disciplining kids about keeping their masks on and disciplining them about keeping their distance and less time on learning." However, both Howard and Jenkins acknowledged that school officials are having to make a number of difficult decisions right now and that they themselves aren't sure what the best course of action is either.
For those of you wandering if you should send your child back to school. This is what it will be like.— MamaTeacherBear (@JarredsmomKelly) August 2, 2020
Manatee County school district explains reopening guidelines https://t.co/LqN6ysTS3q
"I've been so confused on what to do and what is right," said Howard. "It's the hardest decision as a parent right now. No matter what you do, you don't want to desensitize the virus and who's at risk, but you don't want to neglect your child's emotional health either." Jenkins, who revealed that she has not made any firm decisions for her children as far as returning to a physical school is concerned, added: "With the way the world is going, anything can change in a day. We got [my son] enrolled if things get better — if in a month, numbers improve and it's safe for kids to go to school, then we might do that. No matter what you find there's going to be an argument for it. I foresee the comment section of this article popping off."