Joshua Bote, USA TODAY
Published 12:16 p.m. ET July 31, 2020 | Updated 1:01 p.m. ET July 31, 2020
A video shared by a Florida school district showing examples of what reopening its schools will look has gone viral on TikTok and other social media, with parents and critics decrying it as a “heartbreaking” viewing experience.
The two-minute clip, shared by the School District of Manatee County on its Facebook on July 21, shows students wearing masks and social distancing in classrooms, lunch lines and cafeteria spaces as a protective measure against COVID-19.
Teachers are wearing both protective face masks and shields, as well as lab coats, while working with students. Notably, the video shows teachers sitting next to students during instructional periods. Other measures, such as temperature checks and pre-bagged lunches, were also shown in the video.
It remains unclear whether the demonstration video was of real-life instruction.
On July 22, the video was shared on TikTok by Tiffany Jenkins, a Florida comedian and public speaker with three children who attend another district in the area. The clip of her sharing the video has since amassed 2.3 million views and over 18,000 comments as of Friday, with many expressing concern about how unnerving the back-to-school experience shown in the video appears.
“I’m not gonna lie, it looks a little apocalyptic-y. A little ‘Hunger Games’-y,” she said in the video, a reference to the best-selling dystopian books and films.
Jenkins told BuzzFeed News that watching it was “heartbreaking.” She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
“It feels like a punishment for the kids,” she told BuzzFeed News. “That makes me sad. The kids are kids.”
A representative from the Manatee County school district explained in a Facebook comment the day Jenkins posted the video online that the examples in the “video are intended to show examples of the new procedures in place” but will not be the case for every school in the district.
The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise rapidly in Florida, concerns raised by some school officials and teachers stand in stark opposition from a push to reopen schools by Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump.
Nevertheless, the negative response to the viral video may not be mirrored by parents in the district. A survey conducted by the Manatee County school district, per WWSB-TV in Sarasota, Florida, shows that an overwhelming majority of parents surveyed prefer full-time in-person learning or a hybrid model.
Across school levels, only 20 to 30 percent of parents — with few outliers — want their kids to be e-learning full-time, according to the survey published Tuesday.
“You’re making the best decision you can for your own family,” Narissa Smith, a mother with children in the district, told WWSB-TV. “So, you know, what all your friends are doing, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.”
Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote
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