FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie calls it a balance of three realities: Concern for teachers’ health, making sure failing students get ahead academically, and limiting virus spread in schools.
But the topic that’s top of mind is a lawsuit filed by the Broward Teachers’ Union. President Anna Fusco held a press conference Thursday, where she announced BTU filed suit against Broward Schools in response to a decision by the district to end an agreement. The agreement covered special work-from-home accommodations for teachers and support staff with serious medical conditions.
“I know first-hand that we have staff with significant health concerns,” Runcie said Friday. “As of this morning, our schools have granted over 600 remote work assignments based on operational needs.”
Runcie said Friday that they may grant more accommodations, but not everyone would get one.
“We believe that it will be easier to do at the elementary level than it will be at the high school level,” he said.
The union filed the lawsuit after the district said it would not be extending accommodations to 1,700 teachers who had been allowed to work from home because they suffer from severe illnesses and being in the classroom would expose them to the possibility of contracting COVID-19.
But the school district wants more teachers back in the classroom because, Runcie said, they expect more students to come back on Monday – possibly up to 50 percent.
The district mailed 59,000 letters to the parents of children who are falling behind academically because of online learning. The letters urged the parents to send their children back to the classroom.
“Remote learning is working for some students, but for far too many, it is not working at all,” Runcie said.
The union stated that not extending the accommodations to those 1,700 teachers and staff members is a clear violation of an agreement with the district that expires when the school year ends in June.
Therefore, for now, the union president is urging teachers to do what’s best for their health.
“They can call in sick. They can take a personal day, or they can file a longer-leave approach,” Fusco said.
Both the district and the union agree on one thing: that teachers should be at the front of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, the state of Florida has not announced any plans to vaccinate teachers.