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Reopening schools in Florida could slow down after a judge Monday blocked Governor Ron DeSantis and education officials from forcing public schools to open their doors. The Florida Education Association had sued the state for issuing the mandate or risk losing funding.
NBC 6 anchor Sheli Muñiz spoke to Fedrick Ingram, the president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
SHELI: You called this ruling a victory. What does this mean moving forward for schools?
FEDRICK: Well, what this does is strike down the emergency order here in Florida. It says it is unconstitutional for the governor and the Commissioner of Education to mandate that districts have brick-and-mortar options with five days a week or face losing millions of dollars to a district. So, we are pleased that now our school boards, superintendents, local unions can now use science and data and public health officials to guide their decisions. Kudos to Dade County and Broward County who were already doing so, but we have many counties that are already in-person teaching with high positivity rates, with high death counts within this coronavirus.
SHELI: So, what happens with those districts that are already in session across Florida?
FEDRICK: They can now go back, relook, rethink, reconfigure how they are approaching schools. If they so choose, they can discard the brick-and-mortar option because they have high positivity rates because they’re not seeing declines and they can do that without the threat without penalties.
SHELI: What do you say to the parents who have started distancing learning here in South Florida? It’s been challenging. They see the cases dropping, Hard Rock Stadium is opening, and they just want their child in the classroom.
FEDRICK: So, distance learning is challenging. It is not optimal, it is not what we want to do. Every teacher that I know wants to be back in the classroom. That’s what we do, and we do it for a living and we do it happily, but we want to do it safely and we want to keep your child alive and by extension, we want to keep your family healthy. This is not normal, this will not last forever, and I want people to understand that they have to hope in our public schools, but we need to be guided by public health officials, science, and the data that we’re having a decline. We don’t want our schools to be a super spreader event.