Pressure mounting for schools and universities to stay open

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made his position clear; he doesn’t want schools to close their doors despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, faculty at universities are expecting a return to face-to-face learning in the spring.

The moves are being denounced by unions representing K-12 and higher ed staff.

“Whatever the future may hold, school closures should be off the table,” said Governor DeSantis during a Tuesday news conference.

He said the benefits of in-person learning outweigh the risks.

“You know, a school kid is about 1,000 times less at risk than somebody who is, say, 75 in a long term care facility,” said DeSantis.

The Florida Education Association has been tracking COVID cases in schools and universities. So far, it has identified more than 3,300 cases in K-12 schools.

At least six schools have closed due to outbreaks.

“So we’re seeing this around the state. You know the whole point here is what the medical experts say, what scientists say, stay ahead of COVID. Take steps necessary. But the governor is saying ‘Ignore it. Pretend it isn’t happening,’” said FEA President Andrew Spar.

There’s also a push at the University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University for a full return to in-person learning in the spring.

FEA has tracked over 6,300 cases at colleges and universities.

United Faculty of Florida, the union representing higher ed staff, said it’s hearing rumors the push to return to face-to-face learning may be politically driven.

“They’re being threatened with cuts and political retribution, but we cannot trace that or have documentation to that, but that’s what we’re hearing,” said Candi Churchill with UFF.

According to FEA’s stats, there have been 656 classroom closings or quarantines since August 10.

The governor has said only students with symptoms should be forced to quarantine.

FEA has also identified 13 deaths of faculty or their family members since July 6.

The state’s pediatric report shows nine deaths of k-12 aged children since the pandemic began.

Both unions worry more in-person learning will put their members at higher risk if safety precautions aren’t dramatically improved and enforced.

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