TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Although the Leon County School Board's reopening plan was approved by the Florida Department of Education, some teachers won't be going back.
Some teachers say they're being forced to put their lives on the line in order to make kids and parents happy.
An USA Today online poll in May found that 1-in-5 teachers will not return to the classroom due to the pandemic.
There are 115 vacant teaching and teaching-related positions, as of Aug. 7. It is unknown why the positions are vacant, but that number grows every day.
For the 2020 school year, there are 62 public schools in Leon County, FL, serving 36,580 students.
To date, there approximately 16,500 students are enrolled in brick and mortar, 13,000 in digital academies, and 300 in Leon County Virtual school. That leaves just under 7,000 students who have yet to make a definitive choice.
LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna sent an "open letter" to all LCS teachers Friday, addressing the issue. In it, he states:
"I know you have a lot of anxiety right now. I get it, I do as well.
The balancing act of getting our kids back in school - who are begging to return - while also protecting you at the same time keeps me up at night... I promise you from the day we reopen on August the 31st I will be with you. I will visit every school starting out west with Fort Braden School and work my way east to Chaires Elementary School."
On July 6, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued the executive order requiring all of Florida's public K-12 schools to reopen in August.
"To open our doors or not? The Commissioner of Education, supported by the Governor, has instructed us to open or face severe financial penalties that could potentially bankrupt our school system," Hanna said in the letter.
School systems around the country faced multi-million dollar losses when the coronavirus emerged in spring and sent students and teachers home.
"In my heart, I honestly believe we have to try opening," reads Hanna's letter. "I am confident our safety measures and our willingness and determination to get back to work and open our schools will show our children and our community how important they are to us. By not trying we continue to be held at the mercy of this virus."
Concerned parents and teachers continue to protest Leon County Schools board meetings in an effort to urge the school board not to re-open this fall.
Those parents and teachers say they don't feel like enough has been done to promise COVID-19 won't spread.
Tallahassee Community Action Committee, Leon For a Safe Return to Campus, and Graduate Assistants United FSU are asking board members to make school virtual for the first nine weeks of the semester, and the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit to halt the order.
One LCS teacher posted a response to Hanna's letter online.
Hilary Parsons supported his campaign to become the 2017 superintendent, putting up posters, calling him a "breath of fresh air," but now says she misjudged:
"The teacher morale is extremely low; you’re right about that. It’s not because you haven’t communicated much with us. We expected that. It’s because you’re telling us that we have to endanger our lives and our family’s lives because kids WANT to go back to school and because parents need childcare. Since when is a child’s wants more important than a person’s life? You confirmed that you view us as babysitters. Even if the latter was truly a concern or I’m mistaken, Rosanne Wood presented the safest, most logical plan I’ve heard yet during your agenda review almost two weeks ago. She presented a plan to ensure safety AND childcare for young children. You and the other people who participated refused to hear her."
"Being a teacher is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I want you to know that the treatment of teachers throughout all of this has been painfully heartbreaking at best. After all we’ve given of ourselves, now we have to choose between our lives and our livelihood. This is NOT acceptable."
Teenagers in Florida and the U.S. now have one of the highest positivity rates, and children can carry up to 100 more coronavirus than adults.