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‘We’re in the hotbed of COVID’: Sarasota teacher voices concerns about going back to school

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SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA)- Sarasota High School social studies teacher Christy Karwatt is voicing her concerns about going back to school in August.  

Karwatt appeared on CNN this past weekend, where she explained that the growing number of positive COVID cases in Florida, coupled with the state on track to reopen schools in the Fall, is a recipe for disaster.  

“We’re in the hotbed of COVID,” Karwatt told WFLA.com.  

The 61-year-old teacher is currently entering her 27th year as an educator. She believes not only will her student’s health be jeopardized but their education will also take a hit if they’re forced to go back into a classroom.

“If somebody’s having a problem, I go sit down next to them and we work through the situation or I help them learn where the information is in the textbook. I’m not going to do that because I’m going to be six feet away at all times for my students,” Karwatt said. “So, for effective classroom teaching, it’s just not possible right now to go back into the classroom.” 

COVID hits close to home 

On Monday, Florida reported another 12,000 positive tests of COVID-19 bringing the total number of cases to 282,435 across the state. 

“An excellent teacher, my age, is right now on a ventilator in a local hospital from COVID,” Karwatt said. “He’s the most serious but I have a friend from my church, 46-years-old, she wasn’t hospitalized but she’s been sick for three weeks. I have a neighbor who has cancer and has been fighting it for 20 years, now has COVID.” 

In Sarasota County, there have been 3,180 positive tests of COVID-19, 100 deaths and 262 hospitalizations.  

“I know quite a few people that have it and it’s just not worth the risk to spread it any further to anybody else,” Karwatt said. 

Protest reopening plans 

On Sunday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that she believes kids can safely return to the classroom. 

“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” DeVos said.

Karwatt would strongly disagree.

She believes having kids in school is not only ‘dangerous’, but requiring her teenage students to follow safety protocols will come with its own set of challenges.  

“To be honest, they’re high school students. They like to buck the rules on any given day,” Karwatt said. “Part of the dress code is ID badges that they’re supposed to wear…On any given day three, four kids don’t have their badges. Our school bought these shields that students can put on their desk that they’re supposed to carry around. So, for them to remember their shields or to remember their mask, I just think it’s going to be a fight.” 

Now, Karwatt is pushing for virtual learning.

On Tuesday, Karwatt and other teachers and parents will form a car line outside of the Sarasota  County Schools District building during their board meeting. The group plans to protest the district’s plan to reopen and to urge them to consider other options.  

“Hopefully, someone will hear this and some will, somebody will say, well, that might not be a bad idea. You know, for us to do because there are the resources here to help out each other,” Karwatt added. 

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