Education groups share concern over order to reopen Florida schools in fall

Unions

WJXT News4Jax | Jake Stofan, Tallahassee correspondent |July 7, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Some Florida education groups worry the goal of reopening schools in the fall might be too optimistic after a month of record-setting case numbers.

The state’s commissioner of education on Monday ordered K-12 schools to reopen at full capacity in August. The order says schools must reopen all brick and mortar buildings for five days a week.

“If we had to open schools today, I would say absolutely not,” said Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram.

To Ingram, the order is a dramatic shift from the local control-centered reopening guidelines the department released in June.

“This has been hoisted upon us in the middle of a crisis where it doesn’t seem that our state has control of what’s going on around us,” said Ingram.

Andrea Messina, with the Florida School Board Association, said there is some flexibility to provide “innovative” learning in the order.

“Blended models, I think alternative platforms. Anything that is not the traditional classroom, bricks and mortar experience,” said Messina.

The order was issued just hours after President Trump tweeted: “Schools must open in the fall.” Ingram hopes politics weren’t the deciding factor.

“Because a tweet does not make policy and it should not make policy for the state of Florida,” said Ingram.

And Messina said with the state continuing to see record case numbers, the order comes at a challenging time.

“There are communities that are not prepared for five days a week,” said Messina. “So allowing those to have some alternative plans, I think, is really going to be crucial.”

The order does waive the requirement that schools provide 180 days of instruction. That could provide some flexibility in the event they’re forced to close again.