Jimbo Jackson, principal of Fort Braden School in Tallahassee, Florida, is pleading with parents to opt for virtual learning instead of in-person classes
Whether or not to start the 2020-2021 school year off in person or virtually has been a hot topic among parents, educators, politicians, and health experts for several months. Despite the fact that the number of infections has continued to increase in many parts of the country, many school districts have opted to reopen and welcome students and teachers into their hallways and classrooms. While some states leave it up to local districts to decide whether reopening is a safe option, Florida schools have been ordered to reopen. One Florida principal, Jimbo Jackson, does not agree with the decision and is begging parents to keep their children home.
In an interview with CNN, Jackson, principal of Fort Braden School in Tallahassee, explained that he does not believe that reopening schools is safe. “I think our greatest concern is the safety of our staff and our students and our connected school families. With our recent state mandate to have face-to-face and brick-and-mortar learning, we have extreme concerns,” he explained.
Jackson has a personal reason to be concerned. Already the school has suffered major losses as a result of the virus, as two active staff members, a former employee and a relative of a staff member have died from it. And, he and his wife were both infected with coronavirus in July. “We’re no longer just a number and just a statistic,” he said. “It’s hit really close to home.”
Just a few weeks into the year, several outbreaks have been reported at schools around the country. Thousands of children and staff members have been forced to quarantine and some schools have already been forced to temporarily close. Students at his school won’t return until the end of the month, but per CDC guidelines he doesn’t think it is a good idea.
“As a school principal and someone responsible for all of these folks, you know, in anticipation of nearly 450 kids and staff members returning to our campus on August 31st, we have a great concern about their safety. The last thing that I want is to have another employee or even worse, a child to become either seriously ill or possibly experience a fatal case of Covid-19,” he continued.
His own battle with the virus has also given him insight into the danger. “Going through that personally and being fairly incapacitated for about 13 days has given me each more understanding. As well as walking through the funerals and the memorial services with families of these three people that were very dear to us.”
He also points to the reality that it will be difficult to “retrain” younger children to avoid socialization. “To not have tag games or to not borrow supplies from each other, those are things that become really difficult to mitigate in a school social setting,” he said. “It will be a very difficult challenge.”
In an interview with The Washington Post, Jackson says that about half of his students have already opted for online classes to start the school year, but he wishes all of them would.
“I would encourage parents, if they have the ability to keep the children at home as distance learners, to do that until we see a drastic improvement in the numbers, or possibly through the discovery of a viable vaccine,” Jackson said.