Runcie says Broward teachers needed in classroom, ‘frustrated’ union hopes judge steps in

Immunocompromised educators feel they’re being put at risk

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Public Schools is asking students who are struggling with distance learning to come back to the physical classroom starting Wednesday.

That means there’s likely to be an influx of students in the classroom, so the district wants more teachers there, too.

But the teachers’ union says making immunocompromised educators go back to school in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic puts their lives at risk.

About 1,600-1,700 Broward teachers used to teach from home. Now, only 600 teachers are allowed to do that.

The rest were instructed to return to school starting Monday.

“I guess I’ve gone through the different stages of being angry and bothered and now I’m just, you know, I’m scared for them,” said Anna Fusco, the Broward Teachers Union president. “I’m frustrated.”

Fusco says bringing the teachers back potentially exposes hundreds of teachers with underlying health conditions that include cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

In a lawsuit filed against the district to stop the teachers from going back, the union called the move reckless.

But Superintendent Robert Runcie argues that schools are not a major source of the transmission of COVID-19.

He says too many kids are failing their virtual classes or skipping them altogether, and he wants more teachers in the classroom in part to encourage kids to return to school.

“We have seen that we need our teachers in school, because it’s having a significant impact on students who continue to be warehoused in schools, in cafeterias, gymnasiums, auditoriums,” Runcie said Monday. “There are students that are struggling academically. ... We’ve identified something around 59,000 students who are not making adequate academic progress.”

The teachers’ union claims that not letting the teachers work from home is a violation of an agreement that the district had reached with the union last year — an argument that Runcie disputes.

On Monday, the union is hoping that a judge will grant a hearing on whether to grant an injunction that would allow teachers to keep working from home.

“Superintendent Runcie is just basically ignoring everything, and it doesn’t show he values our employees,” Fusco said.

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