SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Teachers in Seminole County returned back to the classroom Tuesday for pre-planning ahead of the first day of school in the county set for Aug. 17.
Seminole High School principal Jordan Rodriguez took News 6 on a tour to show how some teachers are already setting up their classrooms to keep students safe.
As of Tuesday, of the 4,300 students enrolled in the third largest school in the state of Florida, only 1,775 chose the face-to-face options.
These are some of the changes they could see on the first day of school.
Socially distanced desks
Inside, Nick Eagle’s classroom, every other desk has a laminated sign stuck on top that reads, “Please social distance. Social distancing in effect. Please stay 6 feet apart. Sit at a different desk.”
Eagle made and laminated the signs himself as a way to keep his students safe.
“I just wanted to make it clear to the students that this desk is closed and please sit in one that doesn’t have a sign, try as much as possible to keep the 6 feet distance,” he said. “I want our students to be as safe as possible and I know that the school is going to do their best work, but I also want to do my part.”
Principal Jordan Rodriguez said once the schedules are finalized, custodial staff will then remove any excess desks not needed since class sizes will be smaller.
“Typically in a classroom you might see 25, maybe 35 students in class. We are expecting lower number in class due to the number of kids who have selected the virtual options,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also took us inside an International Baccalaureate psychology classroom to show us one of five new pieces of technology purchased for teachers who will be teaching both face-to-face and virtually at the same time.
That technology is a system by Cisco with a webcam that will follow the teacher around the classroom as she teaches in person, so the students at home can watch and learn just as if they are physically there.
“This is a top of the line system,” Rodriguez said. “So this camera up here has the ability to pan about 180 degrees, it also picks up audio. The district was kind enough to purchase five for our school and five for Winter Springs High School.”
Rodriguez said they are also in the process of purchasing more technology to help with virtual learning that students could see in honors and standard classrooms as well.
"Right now they are trying to buy up as much technology as possible so remote learning can take place," he added.
No more extra furniture
We followed Mr. Rodriguez into what will be a newly renovated health academy classroom, where he was speaking to the teachers and assistant principal on where to remove excess furniture, like tables that allow for group learning.
“As a profession we tried to go away from that archaic mode of teaching where kids are in straight rows facing the teacher, We are trying to make it work in small teams, like in a business, but now for social distancing that is all gone,” Rodridguez said.
More PPE supplies
As teachers begin to set up their classrooms in the next two weeks, the district as well as school principals are waiting for shipments of PPE supplies to come in. Seminole County School District recently purchasing 25,000 desk partitions. Of those, about 1,650 will be coming to Seminole High School, which will cover nearly all of the 1,800 students who have chosen full face-to-face learning.
“We didn’t do the full 1,800 because at any given period you have kids in PE or band where you won’t have a desk so we figured 1,650 was a safe estimate,” Rodriguez said.
It’s something Eagle was happy to learn is coming.
"I learned about that just this week so I didn't know if that was going to happen or not, that's definitely good news," he said.
Eagle also spent money on his own cleaning supplies, already setting up his own disinfecting station right when students walk into the classroom.
"Finding some cleaning supplies and whatnot has been difficult, so when I have been able to find it I snagged it and brought it here," he said. "Got some disinfectant, some tissues and hand sanitizer to have their hands as clean as possible and I will clean the desk when classes shift and change."
Rodriguez said the district also has purchased PPE supplies that will be coming in before the start of school including extra masks for students who forget theirs and disinfectant by the barrel.
“My goal is to lead with confidence and put the minds at ease of the community, the parents, the kids, the teachers that we are going to get through this and it will be OK,” Rodrigez said.