Teachers union calls on Florida governor to keep schools closed

FEA asks to keep classrooms closed for remainder of school year

An empty classroom is seen at a closed school in Paris, Monday, March 16, 2020. France plans to close all creches, schools and universities from Monday until further notice to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Emmanuel Macron says. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) (Thibault Camus, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Education Associated on Tuesday called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to keep schools closed for the rest of the academic year in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Union president Fedrick Ingram emailed a letter to the governor’s office, writing that “returning prematurely will threaten the safety and well-being of all on campus.”

According to Ingram’s letter to DeSantis, about 20% of Florida schools average more than 1,000 students in attendance on a daily basis. Ingram saying those numbers increase when accounting for faculty and staff.

“Social distancing does not happen when schools are in session, as is apparent in any kindergarten classroom middle school cafeteria or high school hallway as students move from one class to another,” Ingram said. “COVID-19 presents more questions than answers. It also presents a threat that we cannot control. The potential damage that could be done to families and entire communities from an outbreak of COVID-19 at even one school far outweighs the inconvenience of continuing distance learning for the rest of the school year.”

DeSantis extended school closures on March 17 while suspending standardized state testing. Students have since transitioned to distance learning, a feat that schools accomplished in a limited time. Online-only learning will continue through at least May 1.

Ingram addressed distance learning, saying teachers have risen to the challenge gracefully.

“In three weeks, teachers have been asked to rethink, refocus and redirect their classroom instruction for students through distance learning. Our teachers have risen to the challenge. While we have concerns with distance learning and the inevitable inequities that result from it, we are committed to serving the students and parents of Florida on the various platforms until the school year ends.”

Last week, DeSantis said he had not yet decided about whether to reopen campuses.

“We’re going to make the best decision that we can, but it may be that not every county is going to be treated the same in this,” the governor said during a previous news conference. “There is nothing wrong with that. If the problem is different in certain parts of the state, we should recognize that.”

The governor has yet to respond to Ingram’s letter.

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