Broward county public schools superintendent Robert Runcie gave his remarks in testimony today to the Congressional Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Broward county has already decided that they will have schools 100% online, which Runcie double-downed on in his testimony.
"As we continue to consult with our local public health officials and medical experts for guidance, I have been clear about reopening schools that, “We will not compromise the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff. That’s our highest priority. Period,” he said.
Runcie explained how the school district continued to serve food to students, handed out laptops, offered counseling, and handed out books, while the schools have remained closed.
He also cited COVID-19 numbers, noting that Broward and Miami-Dade county have the highest concentration of cases.
"Within our own school district, even with schools being closed and only skeletal crews on campuses, we have recorded more than 200 positive cases among employees," he said.
Runcie said the only option to begin the school year is an eLearning model, with plans to go back to face-to-face learning if the COVID conditions improve. Other options such as a hybrid or blended model, with staggered school days and part-time on campus, part-time eLearning, will be introduced when conditions improve.
"The only way our District will be able to open our school buildings is when we have lowered the number of COVID-19 cases in our community," Runcie said. "It will require each and every one of us to contain community spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, by physical distancing and by washing hands. It will also require a widely available, timely and effective testing and contact tracing infrastructure"
Runcie asked state ad national leaders to put together plans that include effective testing, contact tracing, and to ensure school districts have access to necessary PPE.
He also "begged" the federal government to pass an additional COVID-19 relief package that provides at least $200 billion to public schools across the country.
"We owe it to them and future generations to meet this pandemic head on by developing and implementing national and local strategies to get this pandemic under control, and to provide the necessary funding and support so we can fully open schools and safely provide them with the opportunities to thrive."