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Florida's Largest Teachers Union Releases Guidelines For Reopening Schools

Florida Education Association met today to discuss its guidelines for schools to reopen.
Robbie Gaffney
Florida Education Association met today to discuss its guidelines for schools to reopen.

Florida's largest teacher’s union is suggesting guidelines for how schools can reopen in the fall. Florida Education Association (FEA) officials say time is ticking. Students will start classes in less than three months, and the state has set no official guidelines.

The FEA has released a 17-page document that outlined recommendations for schools to consider when reopening this August. The group's president, Fredrik Ingram, says there are five key priorities: Public health and safety, student success, social and emotional well-being, safe, working, learning conditions, and investment in public schools.

The call for defined guidelines from the state on what steps will be needed to reopen schools is now coming from district superintendents.

Ingram suggests schools could tackle these priorities by implementing 'hybrid approaches.' Some students could go to school physically, while others could continue distance learning. Other ideas include delivering school lunches to classrooms, having teachers move from class to class instead of students, and buying more school buses to allow for social distancing.

"Now, this is not an end-all tell all be all slate of ideas or guidelines, this serves as a conversation," Ingram says.

The FEA also wants schools to rethink fire drills, active shooter drills, and other emergency drills when reopening. The group points out that these exercises can lead to large gatherings of students and staff. Ingram says schools should find a way to do fire drills while social distancing.

"I don't think it's impossible to do that. I think that we have to work with our fire marshals. I think that we have to work with our fire departments locally. I don't think we should have a state system that says we do it like this because all of our schools from rural to urban are going to be different," Ingram says.

The FEA is asking the state's education commissioner to create two groups that would guide how schools should reopen. These groups would be separate from the Governor's Reopening Florida task force.

Ingram explains active shooter drills have traumatized students, and schools need to decide whether to continue them. The state required all school districts to start distance learning in March to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

The FEA also wants schools to temporarily suspend standardized tests, school grades, and VAM scores.

A task force created by Gov. Ron DeSantis to advise on reopening has recommended schools prepare for students to "return to campus fulltime" in the fall. School districts like Leon County are still waiting for the state to release guidelines before cementing any reopening plans.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.