Florida education unions representing 70,000 teachers issue declaration to use ‘safety and science first’ when reopening schools

Florida education unions representing 70,000 teachers issue declaration to use ‘safety and science first’ when reopening schools
Parents in Osceola County will soon find out about the school district's back-to-school plan.

Ten Florida education union presidents, representing over 70,000 educators across the state, said they are advocating for a safe reopening of public schools this fall that is based on both science and safety.

The declaration criticized the Commissioner of Education’s recent executive order stating all school district must reopen their brick-and-mortar school locations in the fall, and called it “tone-deaf.”

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A statewide order to reopen all schools without consideration of community spread and with no adequate preparation or planning, goes against the recommendation of health experts and the CDC,” the declaration reads. “This reckless directive could endanger the health and lives of students, parents, family members at home, educators, and the community at large. Our schools are the backbone of our community and they must be treated as such.”

The joint letter comes after the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the School Superintendents Associations issued a joint statement that reaffirmed the value of in-person learning and committed to making that goal happen, while also calling for science and safety to guide that decision-making process.

The teachers union also said in the letter that CDC guidelines including physical distancing, sanitation and use of PPE will require increased funding and thoughtful planning.

“We know that our schools do not have the resources for the necessary increase in custodians, teachers, physical space, buses, PPE and hygiene and disinfectant needed for a safe reopening,” the declaration reads. “Likewise, there is undeniably not enough time in the next few weeks to accomplish the amount of planning that is essential for a safe reopening given the metrics of the COVID-19 surge.”

The unions said face-to-face learning is “optimal,” but they “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.”

Read the full declaration below:

In a letter to Eyewitness News, Orange County School Board Chairwoman Teresa Jacobs said of the executive order to reopen schools: “This is definitely not the outcome I had hoped for and I am disappointed because this I believe the emergency order deprives locally elected school boards of the opportunity to offer the variety of options that could have provided a safer, healthier environment for our students, teachers, support and administrative staff and their families, while still providing a high-quality education during these unprecedented times.”

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