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Educators reflect on the one year anniversary of schools closing for COVID, look ahead at legislation

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 6:42 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - March 13, 2020 was the day school campuses in Florida were shut down due to COVID-19.

Now, just about one year later, local educators are reflecting on what’s changed.

They’re also looking ahead at bills in Florida’s Legislative Session and how they might affect students grappling with the effects of the pandemic.

Spring break comes with a sigh of relief this year after a lot work by educators to get schools opened up, running in-person classrooms and online learning.

Leaders say teachers have pivoted well, but there has been sacrifice.

“I can’t tell you all how proud I am of the effort we put forth the entire school year to make this happen for our students,” Leon County Schools Superintendent, Rocky Hanna, said.

Hanna commended teachers and students one year after campuses first shut down due to the virus.

“It’s surreal. It’s hard to believe that it’s only a been a year,” said Scott Mazur, the President of the Leon Classroom Association of Teachers.

“We learned very quickly how to adjust and readjust as necessary,” said Latonya Starks, a teacher in Lee County.

The Florida Education Association and the Leon Classroom Teachers Association are closely watching current Legislation.

Senate Bill 886 is focused on high stakes testing.

Scott Mazur says the big question is how the data from testing will be implemented, while taking into account the multitude of effects the pandemic has had on students.

“The purpose of what the test is for, and how it’s used, will be much more important before we go ahead and go into it,” said Mazur. “I think at that point in time, we want to make sure we’re using it for the right reasons.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by FEA President Andrew Spar.

“Doing the testing and getting an idea of what’s really going on is perfectly acceptable. saying we’re going to retain third graders based on it, saying we’re going to keep kids from graduating based on it, saying we’re going to grade schools, that we’re going to evaluate teachers, that doesn’t make sense,” Spar said.

Spar also said during Friday’s press conference, he’s hoping a salary increase could help with the current teacher shortage.

That lack of educators is something Latonya Starks has felt while teaching in Lee County.

“I actually have probably more students this year at this point then I’ve had in previous years because you’re losing a lot of teachers who are older and who are unable to come in and work in this environment,” Starks said.

The group also discussed the need for clear summer programs to be put in place to ensure students who fell behind during the pandemic have all the opportunities to catch up.

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