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Sarasota teacher shows off classroom desk shields, air purifier ahead of first day of school

Students in Sarasota will have plastic shields around their desks to prevent spreading germs and droplets.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Teachers are in a tough spot this year.

Online students, in-person students, enforcing face masks, creating social distancing measures, and dealing with the greatest "summer slide" of their careers -- back to school, 2020 style.

The "summer slide" is a tendency for students to forget some of the lessons they learned the year before, but given the way the last nine weeks of the 2019-2020 school year ended with an abrupt switch to online learning amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers like Erika Franz anticipate more catching up than usual.

"The first two weeks we're talking about working on social and emotional learning so they're not stressed out. Their families are going to be stressed. They're going to feel it and come back that way," Franz said.

Franz is a kindergarten through second-grade Exceptional Student Education (ESE) teacher in Sarasota County, where she sees children with special needs.

She found the end of last year to be especially challenging for her students.

"Knowing my kids, the backsliding they do, they’re already behind, if you’re ESE, you’re already a year behind if not more and then all of a sudden, you don’t have a teacher," she said.

Despite the coronavirus and the fact that Franz's parents, who are both in their seventies, live with her, she was ready to get back in the classroom and see her students in person.

RELATED: Here's what happens if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19 at a Sarasota County School

She and her husband, who's also a teacher, came up with a protocol for taking off shoes and changing clothes the minute they get home to protect her parents from any germs.

"One, I was ready to come back and be in the classroom. Two, my kids need to be here. They need hands-on. They need small groups. They need the cards they use, the reading programs we use just to keep them maintaining or trying to move forward," Franz said.

She set her classroom up with separated desks, each with a plastic shield surrounding the desk to prevent spreading germs and coronavirus droplets.

She also built a big plastic barrier so her kids can sit together at the same table safely for group work.

Credit: Erika Franz
Barriers intended to shield germs for group work in a Sarasota classroom.

Franz has plenty of hand sanitizer, cleaning materials, and an air purifier for her classroom.

RELATED: Law firm offering Florida teachers free living wills prior to heading back to school

Students start school in Sarasota County on Monday, August 31. The district allowed families to chose whether they wanted to learn online or in-person.

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