POLK COUNTY, Fla. — "The State of Florida is getting it woefully wrong by impulsively and politically pushing local school boards to reopen schools."
That's part of a letter from 10 education union presidents in Florida, including representatives from Hillsborough and Polk counties. These presidents represent more than 70,000 educators in the state, and they're demanding local leaders work with health officials to come up with a plan to safely reopen schools. The letter states that there currently is no comprehensive plan to so.
In the letter, the presidents say the Florida Department of Education's executive order to reopen brick and mortar school buildings is "unfunded" and "tone-deaf."
"A safe reopening consistent with health experts’ and CDC guidelines on physical distancing, sanitation, and use of Personal Protective Equipment requires increased funding and thoughtful planning," the letter states.
It cites that Florida's school districts were "already financially struggling after decades of underfunding" prior to the pandemic, and don't have the funds allocated to properly keep students and staff safe under current COVID-19 health guidelines.
"We hear [COVID-19] numbers every day, but behind the numbers are real lives—deaths in our families, lifelong disability, months of rehabilitation, and scores of healthcare workers themselves getting sick."
"While we know that face-to-face learning is optimal, we cannot support any plan that will expose students and teachers, and the families and communities they love, to illness or death. Academic challenges can be addressed—a lost life cannot."
The letter was signed by the following education presidents:
- Carmen Ward, President of the Alachua County Education Association
- Anthony Colucci, President of the Brevard Federation of Teachers
- Robert Kriete, President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association
- Stuart Klatte, President of the Lake County Education Association
- Mark Avery, President of the Marion Education Association
- Wendy Doromal, President of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association
- Lare Allen, President of the Osceola County Education Association
- Stephanie Yocum, President of the Polk Education Association, Inc.
- Daniel Smith, President of the Seminole Education Association
- Elizabeth Albert, President of the Volusia United Educators
Here in the Tampa Bay area, educators say they have not received any answers to questions they have about returning to school, such as whether or not sick leave will be covered, if substitute teachers are going to be available, if funding will be made available to hire more teachers, more bus drivers and more staff to comply with social distancing.
Read the full letter here: