Andrew McKay 05/22/20

Escambia Superintendent Malcolm Thomas does not think the CDC guidelines issued this week for reopening schools are anywhere close to functional.  The new restrictions include food being consumed in the classroom, masks being worn through the school day by students and staff, avoiding or eliminating shared objects, and having only one child per every other row on the school buses.  When asked whether he thought Escambia schools could function within these parameters, Thomas tells NewsRadio, “I would call those guidelines ridiculous.”  Just on the issue of school buses, he says conceiving of 20 students on a bus “is untenable.  There is no calculus where you can solve that problem and we would be able to transport 25,000 students, even if we doubled the buses and drivers that we had.”

Thomas had other practical concerns about the feasibility of the guidelines.  “I think whoever wrote and created these guidelines have never worked in a school.  We can do some of them, you know directing traffic in one direction, we can work on not sharing supplies, but anybody believes a 3-year-old pre-k student is gonna wear a mask…we have a hard enough time keeping their shoes on!  That’s just not going to be functional, and if this is the way it’s gonna be, they’re gonna shut schools down all across America.  Somebody will have to get some opinions from superintendents and teachers that would be a little bit more tenable, and have we forgotten this virus isn’t really a child virus.”

However, the CDC does not dictate to the State how to run schools.  Instead it is up to Governor DeSantis to decide under what parameters schools will reopen, and Thomas was optimistic he would be more reasonable about the guidance.  “We’re gonna work with the Governor of the State of Florida because the Governor has authority to set the reopening parameters for Florida.  And what we’re going to want to do is set some parameters that are reasonable.”

On the matter of graduation, Thomas had equally strong words, pledging, “We are going to have a graduation,” for high school students.  He says he has three dates at the Bay Center, one in June and two in July.  He is hoping to have a clear plan in the next two weeks to have “permissions and nail down the exact parameters under which we would have a face-to-face graduation, be able to release that to our seniors and their parents so that everybody can begin to make plans.”

But Thomas was clear in pledging, “We are not gonna forget this class of 2020.  I promised them that from the beginning.  We will celebrate their success.  They will have an opportunity to march across the stage in the Civic Center.”  However, he says it will be different with limited capacity, separation of students and crowd and access will be limited to ticket-holders only for the first time ever.
Listen to the entire interview here:

Malcolm Thomas- Superintendent of Escambia County Schools

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