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COVID-19 precautions: Pinellas teacher's union and district reach agreement

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Posted at 4:20 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 20:32:08-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Protecting teachers and students from getting COVID-19. The Pinellas County Classroom Teacher’s Union just reached an agreement with the Pinellas County School District on new safety measures for the upcoming school year.

Here’s what it spells out:

1. It won’t be up to teachers to enforce the rules if students refuse to wear a mask in the classroom. Instead, school administrators will work to educate kids on the importance of masks. If the student still doesn’t comply, parents will be involved in a discussion. From there, school administrators choose to re-assign a student to online classes if they don't comply.

2. The new agreement also says teachers won’t have to use their own PTO or sick time to quarantine if they’re exposed to someone at school with the virus. Instead, they can use sick time from a banked system.

3. Teachers with a health condition will get first priority to work from home on virtual learning platforms, followed by teachers age 65+, third priority will be given to teachers with live-in family members with health conditions.

4. Teachers will not be responsible for cleaning duties. Although they will be given supplies, a dedicated strike team will handle deep cleaning of classrooms.

5. Non-essential visitors will be restricted from school campuses for at least the first 9 weeks of the school year.

6. Parents are encouraged to screen their own children before sending them off to school for the day.

7. Five cloth face coverings will be provided to each employee and student.

8. Each school will have a full-time nurse.

9. Playgrounds will be sanitized to CDC regulations.

10. Each teacher must take a 3-hour training on My PCS Virtual initiatives.

11. Some lessons will be filmed via camera and streamed to students watching from home.

Yet, teachers tell ABC Action News they are still concerned about the return to the classroom. Brian Coleman loves teaching and says he never imagined there would be a time where he wouldn’t want to return to the classroom.

“But now, it’s a new world,” he said with a sigh.

Travis Lueth, a high school reading teacher, also doesn’t believe the new mutual understanding agreement goes into enough detail about how cases will be monitored, reported and how contract tracing will work.

“I need to know that I will know if a student in my classroom tested positive,” he explained.

He also worries about not knowing if he will be assigned an in-classroom position, virtual or a blended role.

"It's incredibly stressful. My wife is also a teacher and we're incredibly stressed because there is so much indecision," Lueth added.

Nancy Velardi, the Pinellas Classroom Teacher’s Association President says a fully virtual model isn’t off the table if the number of COVID-19 cases doesn’t go down.

“Everybody has to watch those numbers. If they are at a dangerous level, there aren’t enough safety protocols to stop an enormous surge,” she said.

“If we think the situation is unsafe enough that we all have to wear masks in the classroom, we shouldn’t be there,” Lueth added.