Florida’s top teachers union on Tuesday unveiled its proposal for reopening public-school campuses in the fall as districts wait for final direction from the state Department of Education.
After nearly three months of coronavirus-prompted school closures, the education of about 3 million Florida students has been upended, sparking concerns about growing achievement gaps and the types of safety measures that will be needed to keep students and staff members safe in the fall.
“We don’t want to go into a school year with question marks. People want to know how they can be safe, how they are going to stay healthy, how we’re going to tune into academic success,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said during a conference call on Tuesday.Ingram, the chair of the union’s Statewide Committee to Safely Reopen Public Schools, said the recommendations are meant to be a “floor not a ceiling” for what schools ought to do before welcoming back students, faculty and visitors to campuses.
It will be important for districts to have the flexibility to make their own decisions, which led to broad recommendations from the committee, Ingram said.
“What we didn’t want to do was to bottle one district into one corner and say you must do this because there are going to be many different ways to get it right,” he said.
The Florida Department of Education has not released its final guidelines for districts to reopen for the new school year, which is less than three months away.
While there is no timeline for the state guidelines, the department will issue “more recommendations” in the coming week, Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for the agency, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday.Fenske said it is “critical to take a step-by-step, phased-in approach to reopening Florida’s schools,” adding that the state “can only hit its economic stride if schools are open.”
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