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A Florida district’s school reopening video is going viral for all the wrong reasons

Parents compare it to child prison

A screengrab from the School District of Manatee County's reopening video.
A screengrab from the School District of Manatee County's reopening video. (School District of Manatee County)

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. – As Florida schools plan to reopen in just a few weeks -- even as the coronavirus continues to spread -- one school district’s video showing what classrooms could look like this fall is gaining attention online.

The School District of Manatee County posted the promotion video to Facebook on July 21 showing teachers wearing lab coats, masks, gloves and face shields as they teach students who are seated at spaced-out desks.

A narrator explains that social distancing will be adhered to, face coverings will be required and random health screenings will take place.

Reopening Schools 2020 | Here's an informative video from Manatee Schools Television

Posted by School District of Manatee County on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

“We look forward to welcoming your children to the new school year,” the video ends.

A Florida mother who saw the video took to TikTok to point out what she saw as a few problems with the video.

The response video Tiffany Jenkins posted, which has been liked more than 381,000 times on the social media platform, starts with her comparing the footage to something from a horror or dystopian film.

“So the school district in my town just released a video of what to expect for the upcoming school year and I’m not gonna lie, it looks a little apocalyptic-y, a little ‘Hunger Games’-y,” Jenkins said in the intro.

From there, her viral video features a montage of clips showing teachers in PPE and masked students walking down the halls. The footage ends with her making an anxious and worried face.

In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Jenkins called the video “heartbreaking.”

@jugglingthejenkins

I feel like I'm living in an M. Night. Shyamalan movie dude.

♬ original sound - jugglingthejenkins

“It made me sad how different the experience would be,” she told the outlet. “It feels like a punishment for the kids. That makes me sad. The kids are kids. The idea that they have to focus on distancing, or to keep their masks on to be so far from their friends, it’s heartbreaking.”

Similar comments were posted on the district’s Facebook page.

“That video just reaffirms that school shouldn’t be opening. That looks like a prison for kids,” one woman wrote.

Several others also made remarks about the footage reminding them of a child prison while others said it was just plain sad.

“Doesn’t this just look miserable,” another woman wrote.

Other remarks simply read, “horrible” and “Dumbest most ridiculous nonsense I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

While the district didn’t respond to all 853 comments on its Facebook post, it did leave one statement in response to the criticism.

“Images and video are intended to show examples of the new procedures in place. Schools are not one-size-fits-all. In this case, the lab coats were requested by staff as an added layer of protection to keep them safer and make students feel safer. Also, each classroom is different, so desk configuration will be subject to class size,” the comment read.

Schools across the state have been ordered to allow in-person learning for the fall semester, although many districts are giving parents the options to choose whether they’d like to return to a brick-and-mortar classroom or continue some form of distance learning.

In Manatee County, the semester begins Aug. 17 and options include going back to school in-person full-time, a hybrid option or full-time online learning.


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