Orange County School Board hears from concerned parents, teachers after state order to reopen schools

Florida schools told to reopen in August by education commissioner

Ahead of a workshop Tuesday about reopening schools, some Orange County teachers say they aren't happy to return to the classroom in August.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Public Schools School Board held a work session meeting to discuss the reopening of schools, the day after the Florida Department of Education commissioner issued an executive order calling for all Florida schools to physically reopen this fall despite the ongoing pandemic.

Ahead of the board meeting, a number of parents and teachers took part in a car parade that was organized by the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association.

Some teachers and parents voiced their concern about the reopening of schools.

"There are children who have died; I mean, it's out there, the information is out there, so it's just blatant disregard for students lives and their parents," said Gladys Smith-Mangan.

Smith-Mangan is a parent of children who attend school in the Orange County Public School District.

She was a part of the car parade that had cars driving around the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center with posters and messages for the school board.

Meanwhile, inside the building, OCPS said board members and staff were gathered to discuss the reopening of schools.

OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said, they had to rethink the meeting following the emergency order that came out last night from Florida's Education Commissioner for reopening schools next month.

The order issued by Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, lists a number of reopening requirements. Some of those requirements include: brick and mortar schools open five days a week, schools must provide the full array of services required by law, along with monitoring the progress of all students, charter school flexibility and making sure schools provide services for students with disabilities.

Dr. Raul Pino from the Orange County -Florida Department of Health, answered almost three hours worth of questions from school board members Tuesday.

Board members asked Pino if it’s safe to reopen schools, if children are asymptomatic and don’t test positive, can they transmit the virus, along with questions on busing and how teachers can stay safe when interacting with students who may not be able to wear a mask.

Pino said he cannot guess if it will be safe in August, or what the numbers or data might look like.

He reminded board members that he is not a policy maker, and also said that he cannot make a recommendation until he has seen the district’s full plan.

The board made note of the fact that no decisions would be made in the meeting, and that it was a work session and discussion.

Earlier in the day, Orange County Public Schools announced that they would not be holding in-person graduation ceremonies due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Orange County.

About the Author:

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.