PASCO COUNTY, Fla.—Teachers in Pasco County rallied Tuesday morning ahead of a school board meeting to push for the new school year to start with distance learning only.
“It’s not even that I don’t want to risk my life for them,” said teacher Alexis Parker. “I don’t want them to get sick and risk their own lives and their family's lives.”
Dozens of teachers and staff lined the road outside district offices in Land O’ Lakes. United School Employees of Pasco said last week it will seek an injunction to prevent schools from opening for safety and health reasons.
Teachers shared they think it’s all about returning to school safely.
“We can prepare for things like active shooters and for our students to have medical episodes in the classroom. We’re prepared for those things, but what we can’t be prepared for is something like this that we can’t control,” said teacher Jeremy Blythe.
The teachers set a benchmark of what numbers they’d like to see to feel safe to move from online learning back to brick-and-mortar education. They want to see a 14-day average of less than a five percent positivity rate in Pasco County.
“It’s scary. I have spent plenty of days this summer, especially recently, crying and trying to figure out how do I make certain things work” said teacher Rachel Miller. “I have well over 30 kids in some of my classes currently and I don’t know how I’m supposed to make that work. We’ve been told that in order to have six feet apart for students, we could fit 12 desks in a classroom. At four feet distance, we could fit 20. [At] three feet, we could fit 28. I have more than that, and so what am I supposed to do?”
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning says they’ve put measures in place for a safe return for both students and staff, like more deep cleaning and mask requirements. However, he explained the emergency order requires them to open schools five days a week.
“It ties funding to that, so if you don’t open bricks and mortar, then you will not get your funding, and I think the disconnect has been that they don’t understand that if we don’t get the funding, then teachers don’t get paid,” he said.
Pasco County students go back to class on August 24.