BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Plans to reopen Brevard County’s schools along with the rest of Florida's are not getting high marks from the teachers union.

What You Need To Know

  • VP of Brevard Federation of Teachers wary of school reopening plan

  • Brevard teachers feeling it's not safe enough to return to classes 

  • Brevard County school board's next meeting is on July 14

Brevard Federation of Teachers Vice President Vanessa Skipper said Thursday’s 10-hour-plus school board meeting to map out a plan for reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic left more questions than answers.

“We still don’t know enough about the virus,” Skipper said. “No teacher wants to contract it and bring it home to their families. No teacher wants a student to contract it, and it’s irresponsible [to return to classrooms] because the state is not fully reopened [but] we are insisting kids return to school.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered schools to resume classroom teaching in the fall, even though the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to spike.

Skipper said teachers are being left out of the statewide decision, even though they are on the frontlines in the schools.

According to Patti Seibert from the Brevard County Nursing Department, “Our positivity rate is 11.5 [percent]. Last month, we were down to around 4 so we’ve seen a significant increase in the past month.”

If school board meetings are held virtually out of precaution and to adhere to social distancing recommendations, Skipper questions why policy makers think it's safe for students and teachers to be cooped up in a classroom. 

Even though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people remain 6 feet apart as one way to help protect against coronavirus, the American Academy of Pediatrics says a 3-foot separation in classrooms provides similar benefits. 

“[A] Six foot [separation] is not required in classrooms,” Jane Cline of Elementary Leading and Learning pointed out. “It’s more of 3 foot so we are working toward that to maximize the classroom as much as we can.” 

Skipper is not convinced and said a return to the classroom could be disastrous.

“The ability to hire more teachers, lower class ratio, buying more Plexiglas to space out places in the classroom…if we are going to cram students on a bus, two to a seat, and rely on masks to save the day, it’s going to be a disaster,” she said. 

“A lot of our teachers are looking into retiring early but simply can’t afford it, so they are deciding between risking their lives or early retiring and not being able to survive.”

District 1 School Board Chair Misty Belford said she has concerns about who should be making the call, the state or local school districts, considering that virus cases are climbing sharply.

“All schools would go back to brick and mortar in August, unless our local health [department] deemed it unsafe for us to do so,” Belford added. 

The Brevard County School Board’s next virtual meeting is scheduled for July 14. If members of the community want to submit comments, they must fill out a registration form  by no later than 8 a.m. ET Monday.

Read the draft of the Brevard Public Schools' reopening plan here:

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