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School District of Palm Beach County bans makeshift desk shields

Some teachers say shields provided by school district aren't large enough
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Posted at 4:20 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 17:31:40-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — You may have seen pictures on social media of the creative ways teachers in Palm Beach County have installed dividers or separators in their classrooms as shields.

Now they have to take them down, as the School District of Palm Beach County has cited safety concerns in a letter sent to principals this week.

The school district said the only barriers approved are those provided by the district.

But some teachers said the Plexiglas shield provided -- which is 2 1/2 feet by almost 2 feet -- is not large enough.

"It protects the person behind the shield if someone is within 12 inches," said science teacher Jeff Levinson. "Your students are not 12 inches from you. Any further than 12 inches away, breathing, a sneeze, a cough, it's going right around that shield."

Levinson said he is one of the fortunate teachers at his school given a remote position. But he's been working on his own shield for the day he returns to in-person instruction.

"It's 8 feet high and it's covered in plastic material like visqueen that's thick but see-through. It's not going to interfere with ventilation up on the ceiling," Levinson said.

Now Levinson is learning that the district has banned all makeshift shields that are made with plastic and fabric, citing violations of state fire codes.

Some teachers said the shields provided by the district are better than nothing, while others said they are a waste, costing more than $850,000.

"That small shield would not be on my desk because basically it's useless," Levinson said. "I would give it to a colleague and let them put two shield together. Maybe that would help."

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