ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The union representing Orange County teachers is raising concerns after the school district revised its health and safety recommendations.
On Sunday, Orange County Public Schools released its COVID-19 Health and Safety Procedures Manual for the 2021-2022 school year.
The 23-page manual is less than a third the size of last year’s manual and teachers have taken notice of several safety measures that are noticeably absent.
One of the biggest changes surrounds masks in the classroom. The district now strongly encourages students and teachers to wear masks but does not make them mandatory.
“The bottom line is it’s putting employees and especially students at serious risk,” Classroom Teachers Association President Wendy Doromal said.
While the manual includes guidance for students showing symptoms of the virus to stay home, Doromal said she has serious concerns about a lack of required social distancing and cleaning measures.
“By instituting the changes, they’re ignoring the recommendations of health experts and undermining the threat of the virus,” Doromal said. “It’s going to prolong the pandemic, because you won’t have those safety mandates and procedures in place.”
Doromal said the revisions may actually violate the union’s contract language, which requires the district to maintain healthy working conditions.
The changes come after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order last week banning mask mandates in Florida schools for students.
Doromal said the district should take a stand and keep stronger safety measures in place.
“We’re fighting for your child, because teachers working conditions determine students learning conditions,” she said.
On Monday, union representatives were scheduled to discuss health and safety working conditions with district leaders. OCPS has scheduled a COVID-19 safety meeting at Boone High School Aug. 6 at 10 a.m.
The OCPS Health and Safety Procedures Manual can be found here.