Florida Teacher’s Union Sues Over Plan to Reopen Schools

A member of the media takes a picture inside a school bus set up for social distancing during a Monday media demonstration at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

MIAMI (CN) — Florida’s largest teacher’s union Monday sued state officials to prevent schools from opening in August as the state continues to see a surge in coronavirus cases.

The Florida Education Association filed the complaint in Miami-Dade circuit court against Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, the Florida Board of Education and Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

A group of teachers and parents also joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs.

Corcoran issued an executive order on July 6 that requires all brick-and-mortar schools to reopen next month for at least five days per week. Parents can choose to continue virtual learning.

The lawsuit seeks to block that order.

The union claims opening brick-and-mortar schools violates the Florida Constitution, which mandates the “safe” operation of public schools.

The union maintains opening the schools is “arbitrary, dangerous, dangerous, and unconstitutional actions in the midst of the pandemic create an imminent threat to the public health, safety and welfare.”

The Florida Department of Health’s latest update reported more than 10,500 new cases on Monday.

Health officials also recorded 90 more resident deaths Monday. More than 5,000 Floridians have died from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, state records show, and about 356,000 have contracted it.

“Gov. DeSantis needs a reality check, and we are attempting to provide one,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram in a statement. “The governor needs to accept the reality of the situation here in Florida, where the virus is surging out of control.”

“Everyone wants schools to reopen, but we don’t want to begin in-person teaching, face an explosion of cases and sickness, then be forced to return to distance learning,” he said.

The governor’s office would not comment due to the pending litigation but DeSantis has repeatedly called for schools to reopen on time for in-person learning while allowing for virtual teaching.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, DeSantis maintained his position.

“Our guiding principles have been ultimately, parents need to be able to choose the best environment for their students, for their kids,” the Republican governor said.

“We see the problems that have already developed by kids not having the mentorship and the access to in-person instruction,” he added. “We don’t want folks to fall behind.”

He also distanced himself from the state’s department of education order and reiterated parents should have the choice.

Earlier this month, the Center for Disease Control released its own guidelines for schools, including daily health checks, use of face masks and spacing students’ desks six feet apart.

President Donald Trump has criticized those guidelines and called for schools to reopen on time or risk losing federal funding.

The Florida Education Association, which represents over 150,000 educators, released its own plan that follows most of the CDC guidelines.

The Florida Department of Education has not adopted those recommendations in its most recent order.

“The order imposes mandates that make it impossible to comply with CDC guidelines on physical distancing, hygiene, and sanitation if schools are operating at full capacity,” the complaint states. “Further, the order fails to provide adequate funding for the necessary increase in custodians, teachers, physical space, buses, PPE, and hygiene and disinfectant products needed for a safe reopening. Unfunded mandates are the hallmark of top down government.”

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