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Teachers Union Leaders Want More Guidance From State On Reopening Schools

A classroom
A classroom

On Monday, Florida's Education Commissioner issued an emergency order for brick and mortar schools to reopen for the fall, with the full array of services schools provide.

It said "school openings must be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health, local health officials and supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable."

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But leaders of teachers unions said they need much more guidance when it comes to protecting everyone involved, students, teachers, aides, bus drivers and others.

Pat Gardner, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association, said Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran should be offering guidance on how to keep everyone safe now.

"How do I keep my 55-year-old teacher from getting sick, who has diabetes and maybe some underlying health problems and they're not discussing that and that's what they need to discuss now," Gardner said.

CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida

"Are they going to fund that, the money to buy masks and shields...and everything else that it takes to keep people safe? Or is this just because the governor wants to do what the president wants to do? And the president says 99% of the people are fine. So are we suffering because of politics? And that's what I believe, and my teachers are scared to death," she said.

Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said with just five weeks until school is back in session, "I would like to see all options explored. Anything that we can do to ensure the safety of our society is going to be have to remain on the table and we're going to have to talk about that and what the implications of that are.

"But I will tell you this, this is going to cost us more money. It's not going to cost less money."

Both Gardner and Ingram want to know where the money would come from to pay for the options families are being offered in this time of coronavirus.

"Because if you offer the virtual school online, and you offer the brick and mortar, you are going to have to have more staff, more faculty, not fewer people," Ingram said.

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.