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How a medical advisory committee will advise Orange County schools on safe reopening

Doctors, nurses and hospital leaders make up special committee

4 things Orange County Public Schools wants parents to know before Monday
4 things Orange County Public Schools wants parents to know before Monday

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Medical Advisory Committee for the Orange County Public Schools will meet Wednesday evening for the second time ready to discuss how to safely reopening schools during a global pandemic. 

According to a list from school district officials, the Medial Advisory Committee is made up of 11 doctors, nurses and hospital leaders representing Orlando Health, AdventHealth, Nemours and private practices. It was formed on July 30 to specifically assist with COVID-19 issues that the district faces. 

“This committee will advise the School Board regarding best practices for operating our schools safely. Per the Florida Department of Education Commissioner’s Emergency Order 2020-E0-06 and unless a waiver is granted, this committee will not advise the board regarding the opening of the district but may advise the board about the opening or closing of individual schools due to a COVID-19 outbreak,” the district wrote. 

Winter Park Pulmonologist Dr. Akin Ajayi, with Children’s, Lung, Asthma and Sleep Specialists, is on the committee. 

“It’s a very complex problem that we are facing, but one that we have to face nonetheless,” Ajayi said. 

Per the district, it was not within the committees scope to advise on school reopening, but that changed after a school board vote Tuesday night. 

 "I fully accept this motion to just lift restrictions," said School Board Member Karen Castor Dentel Tuesday night. "I think any time we put restrictions on any medical professional, we unnecessarily tie their hands and we put ourselves at a loss so I support removing this restrictions."

Ajayi said he believes it will be lively and professional discussion at their second meeting Wednesday night and he says he isn’t afraid to be vocal about his opinion.

“I think we all feel very strongly that caution is important in doing this the right way,” Ajayi said. “My thought is that, no where else in the world would you do this in this way, it makes absolutely no sense.” 

If schools are going to open, Aiayi said, “then my job is to make sure it is the safest environment for the teachers.”

Ajayi believes there needs to be more time to learn more about the virus. 

“The fact of the matter is this: No one knows enough honestly on what coronavirus is going to mean to the children,” Ajayi said. “It took us 5 and half months before we realized there was a real condition that could affect children’s hearts. If anyone says they know for sure it’s going to be safe for children. You can’t say that.” 

After the vote to lift restrictions for the medical advisory committee, Orange County School Board Chairwoman Teresa Jacobs said ultimately, it will be the board's decision on what to do. 

“Regardless of their advice, we maintain that control,” Jacobs said. “The advisory committee is free to give us their advice but we remain the governing body that ultimately will make that decision for whether we are going to make a change.” 


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