Florida, the new US hotspot for coronavirus, will require schools to reopen in August.
The state’s Commissioner of the Department of Education, Richard Corcoran, issued an emergency order on Monday requiring all “brick and mortar schools” to open “at least five days per week for all students.”
Florida, which initially avoided the worst of the pandemic in its first few months, now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US at 206,000 and counting.
Under the order, schools must reopen in full to “ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive wellbeing of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride.”
School districts will need to submit a reopening plan that satisfies the requirements of the new emergency order to the Department of Education.
School openings also will need to be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health and local health officials and be “supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable,” according to the order.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week, as cases stabilize in the state, that some city schools will reopen in the fall with a staggered schedule and a limited capacity of students in classrooms. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state law decides whether schools can reopen, and while he hopes schools can reopen, he won’t do so if it would endanger students or teachers.
Teachers say it’s dangerous to reopen
Teachers in some of Florida’s largest school districts are pushing back against the reopening plan.
“The Governor and Secretary are pushing a political and economic agenda over the safety and well-being of students, teachers and school employees,” the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association said in a statement this week. “While we know that face-to-face learning is optimal, CTA will not support a reopening plan that could expose students, teachers or their families to illness, hospitalization or death.”
Orange County, which includes Orlando, has the country’s eighth-largest school district with nearly 216,000 students and over 25,000 employees.
The teachers’ association cited the contract language for teachers against working in unsafe conditions and said working in schools in August endangers their health and the health of their students.
United Teachers of Dade, which represents Miami-Dade County teachers in the fourth-largest school district in the US, said schools are unlikely to reopen for in-person instruction because coronavirus cases aren’t declining yet. Schools will likely return for virtual classes, the union said.