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  1. Opinion

Coronavirus disruptions give us a chance to rethink our schools

Here’s what readers are saying in Wednesday’s letters to the editor.
Tyliyah Tolbert, 7, a second grader, on left, and her sister Zy'on-Maria Robinson, 4, wait as Destiny Marshall, office clerk, works to get a lap top all set up for Tyliyah at Campbell Park Elementary, on March 24, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Times]


A chance to rethink schools

The clear winner in all of this disruption is the unprecedented opportunity to reevaluate what has become “standard” in our current systems and to shed what doesn’t work. As parents, we are all bracing ourselves for the inevitable announcement that school will be canceled for the rest of the year. This means different things for every student and family, but overwhelmingly it means lack of valuable instruction time. Instead of admitting defeat and starting classes up again in August with students months behind where the standards dictate they should be, what if we examine more thoughtfully why those standards are in place and if they are truly benefiting our students? The parents in my community and I are beginning to ask, why do the kids have to wait until August to go back? There are numerous schools in the Tampa Bay area that operate on a year-round calendar, most commonly 45 school days on, three weeks off. This schedule provides a much more balanced year and eliminates the 12-week stretch of summer, replacing it with shorter breaks throughout the entire year. Maybe 2020-21 is the year to give a year-round school schedule a try. I’ve taught at schools across the country, including Berkeley Prep here in Tampa, and as the mother of three students, I can’t imagine there is a parent in Hillsborough County who wouldn’t be thrilled to hear that schools will reopen again before August, even if the school year looks different than we are accustomed to. We can be a much more flexible society than we imagine.

Abbie Patterson, Odessa

The virus is already here

Shawn Toledo, 13, of Sarasota, center, his father Dexter Toledo, 46, right, walk through the main terminal at Tampa International Airport (TIA) moments after arriving on JetBlue flight #905, a one-way flight from Newark (EWR), New Jersey, which arrived at 12:13 am, only minutes after an executive order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis went into effect on March 24, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. which directs all persons whose point of departure originates from outside the State of Florida in an area with substantial community spread, to include the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York), and entering the State of Florida through airports to isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into the State of Florida or the duration of the person’s presence in the State of Florida, whichever is shorter. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]

Gov. Ron DeSantis has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine order on everyone flying to Florida from the New York City area. With 190 affected flights per day, if average capacity is 150 passengers and even if planes are mostly empty, that is still 5,000 possible virus carriers per day. He’d have done better to outright ban those flights. The virus is here already, and Florida likely has thousands with coronavirus who don’t even know they are sick. Protect your family. Stay home.

R.H. Parta, Bradenton

Take action now, then adjust

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister listen to presentations during the county's emergency policy group meeting Thursday. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times]

As I listened to the lack of action at the meeting of Hillsborough County’s emergency policy group, I worried that we are behind the eight-ball, only a couple of weeks behind Italy’s situation and, yet, we are studying what to do. Take action, modify as you go, but start moving. A stay-in-place order is one thing that can significantly help. Do it.

Dave Smolinski, Sun City Center

The cost of doing business

President Donald Trump talks with host Bill Hemmer during a Fox News virtual town hall with members of the coronavirus task force, in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) [EVAN VUCCI | AP]

As the number of coronavirus cases skyrockets, President Donald Trump is leaning toward allowing the virus to run its course. From a cold, calculated monetary point of view, this means the people who will die are just the cost of doing business in America.

Brian Valsavage, St. Petersburg

The cure vs. the disease

As a 76-year-old retiree, I fully support the president’s position to reopen our economy except in those hardest-hit areas. I do not want to see our economy destroyed by continuing the shutdown so that my children and grandchildren cannot enjoy the good life and, especially, retirement that I have been blessed with. While I realize this puts my life at greater risk due to my age, I am willing to accept it as it is to benefit the whole. That is the American way.

John Slaughter, Clearwater