STUART, Fla. — Students in Martin County will begin classes on Tuesday, with nearly 40% of the student population starting classes online, and the rest taking part in traditional in-classroom instruction.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Back to School
Superintendent Laurie Gaylord promises that students taking classes virtually will receive the same lessons as their peers inside the classroom. The only difference is their location.
Nerissa Okiye is a working mom, serving as the tourism director in Martin County. But like most parents, she has some reservations about school starting Tuesday during a pandemic.
"You're a little concerned just to make sure everything goes safely and you're not putting your kids in any kind of danger," Okiye said.
Okiye said her eighth grader and junior in high school both want to go back in the classroom, and she's spent the summer preparing them for a much different school year.
"At least for my children, they need that socialization. Virtual learning was a challenge for us," Okiye said.
But 40% of students in the Martin County School District will begin the year with remote learning, and the rest will be back on campus for traditional in-classroom instruction.
"The teachers are very apprehensive and very anxious. We had no choice but to come back. Students had a choice," said Karen Resciniti, the president of the Martin County Education Association, which represents nearly 1,300 teachers.
Resciniti said they've received personal protective equipment for teachers, but are worried and scared about returning and getting sick.
"To me, any PPE at this point is still not enough because of the substantial spread that we have in Martin County," Resciniti said.
But in a recent interview with WPTV, the superintendent of the Martin County School District said the district is taking every possible measure to keep everyone safe.
"In the classroom, we have sent out facilities. They have measured every classroom, they have isolated desks six feet apart when possible," Gaylord said.
The district added that all schools have been cleaned and sanitized and masks must be worn by everyone during the day.
The district is planning to talk more about students returning to school at a media event on Tuesday afternoon.
Georgetown University professor Wendy Zajack said the best thing parents can do is to make sure your child and teacher have open lines of communication about what's working and what's not in the virtual environment.
To help stay up to date with deadlines, tests, and assignments, Zajack recommends creating a family calendar. This will also help ease stress and help students and parents stay ahead.
Learning spaces are also a useful tool for virtual classes. Experts said it's essential to distinguish the area of the house for learning and for playing by setting boundaries. This will help kids stay mentally prepared and focused on their assignments.
The COVID-19 pandemic also means things will look different in classrooms.
For those heading back to the classroom, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a few tips to consider to help keep children safe.
The CDC advises parents to make sure your child has their own water bottle, hand sanitizer, and an extra face covering to use when social distancing isn't possible.
The agency also recommensd checking in with your child each morning to make sure they aren't suffering from any symptoms such as sore throat, cough, headache, or vomiting. If they have a fever over 100.4 degrees, health experts said the child should stay home.
To prepare your children for success in the new school year, experts recommended that you start adjusting your child's bedtime schedule to make sure they get enough sleep and establish a morning routine.
For more information about the Martin County School District's back to school plan, click here.