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Florida Schools and the Coronavirus Outbreak

FEA is collecting useful information, FAQs and links for educators, education staff professionals, and other school employees about the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

Fall 2020 School Reopening Information

When school campuses were closed in Florida and across the nation this Spring, few would have imagined that the outbreak of Covid-19 would be peaking in Florida mere weeks before students and staff were expected to return to schools. But, that is the situation we find ourselves in. After taking 113 days for Florida to go from its first case of the virus to 100,000 cases, it took less than a month to triple the total to well over 300,000 cases. 

It is a scary time to be an educator in Florida. At times, it might seem as if those who wield political power are more concerned about their image than about solving the very real problems associated with safely reopening Florida’s schools. 

  • The most up-to-date guidance from medical professionals regarding school reopening,
  • Resources from FEA, NEA, and AFT to help guide reopening decisions, and
  • Stories of educators like you all over the state who are standing up and speaking out for the safety of themselves and their students. 

As a member of the Florida Education Association, you can know that you will never be alone. Your fight for safety for yourself and your students is our fight.  

Together with our national affiliates the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, as well as your local union we are working tirelessly to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of all those involved in public education is at the forefront of the decision on how and when to reopen schools. To see what you can do locally to advocate for a safe reopening, reach out to your local union.

Below you will find some of the resources FEA has gathered to help push for a safe reopening 

FEA’s Statewide Committees to Safely Reopen Schools Issue Reports

FEA is proud to have been the first major organization to have called for closing all of Florida’s public school campuses this Spring as a necessary step to ensure the safety of those who work and learn in our public schools. 

As soon as school campuses closed, we began working on plans to ensure they could be reopened safely this Fall. When our calls to Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to form a statewide task force comprised of educators to tackle this issue was ignored, FEA created its own task forces: one dedicated to the reopening of PreK-12 campuses (PDF, 1 MB) and one for colleges and universities (PDF, 4 MB).

The reports of the respective task forces can be used by educators and policy makers alike to inform their decision-making on how to ensure both safety and success for public education students and staff for the 2020-21 school year. 

FEA leaders and members in the news

When Commissioner Corcoran released his emergency order declaring all school campuses must be open five days a week as scheduled this Fall, the rebuke was swift, loud, bipartisan and occurred in all corners of the state. Here is just a sampling of FEA leaders and members from around the state who have used their voice and their platform as professional educators to advocate for themselves and the needs of the students they serve.  

School Building Reopening and Educator Rights

I am unable or do not feel comfortable returning to school or campus because…

I have an underlying health condition that puts me at greater risk for infection, serious illness if I contract COVID-19.

You may be entitled to work from home as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or FL Human Rights Act, which will depend on the nature of your work and other factors.

Seek local union support in requesting work from home or other accommodations.

Someone in my household has a health condition that puts them at greater risk for infection or serious illness/death if they contract COVID-19

While there is no clear legal right to work from home in these cases, you would be entitled to use paid sick leave and/or FMLA to care for an immediate family member who is sick with COVID-19 or has been advised to quarantine.

Seek local union support to see if arrangements can be made or negotiated

I don’t have childcare because my child’s daycare or school is completely or partially closed due to COVID-19. See Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Local negotiations may address paid leave or remote work arrangements for employees in these categories.

Expanded unemployment benefits pursuant to the CARES Act. Seek counsel from your local union before resigning your employment.

I have one of the following concerns about conditions in my classroom or school building:

  • Lack of social distancing or impossible to social distance at planned capacity
  • Lack of masks provided to staff and students or district refusal to mandate mask wearing
  • Inadequate or non-existent hygiene procedures
  • Inadequate or non-existent screening procedure
  • Inadequate or non-existent cleaning supplies
  • Other deficiencies in building reopening and safety

See CDC Readiness and Planning Tool to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in K-12 Schools (PDF) regarding what is required and what is recommended on each of these topics, which differs depending on whether the building is in an in-person, hybrid, or distance learning model.

My district or building is not following CDC requirements or recommendations.

Document and attempt to discuss concern with building administrator or COVID coordinator, seek clarity on what the building or district policy is, copy local president.

If no change, request support from your local union. Possible options:

  • Organizing by the local to address concern, including engaging school board and/or parents
  • Reporting violations of safety requirements to your local union
  • Demanding to bargain over safety concerns; Health and Safety are mandatory subjects of bargaining
  • Researching additional Covid-19 resources.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in my community is too high, but my school district or building is still going forward with in-person or hybrid instruction.

Work with your local union to decide on a strategy for influencing the district administration or school board.

Most local statements to the district or the public regarding safety would be protected under FL whistleblower and/or labor law.

School Building Reopening and Educator Rights

I have an underlying health condition that puts me at greater risk for infection, serious illness if I contract COVID-19.

You may be entitled to work from home as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or FL Human Rights Act, which will depend on the nature of your work and other factors.

Seek local union support in requesting work from home or other accommodations.

Someone in my household has a health condition that puts them at greater risk for infection or serious illness/death if they contract COVID-19

While there is no clear legal right to work from home in these cases, you would be entitled to use paid sick leave and/or FMLA to care for an immediate family member who is sick with COVID-19 or has been advised to quarantine.

Seek local union support to see if arrangements can be made or negotiated

I don’t have childcare because my child’s daycare or school is completely or partially closed due to COVID-19. See Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Local negotiations may address paid leave or remote work arrangements for employees in these categories.

Expanded unemployment benefits pursuant to the CARES Act. Seek counsel from your local union before resigning your employment.

I have one of the following concerns about conditions in my classroom or school building:

  • Lack of social distancing or impossible to social distance at planned capacity
  • Lack of masks provided to staff and students or district refusal to mandate mask wearing
  • Inadequate or non-existent hygiene procedures
  • Inadequate or non-existent screening procedure
  • Inadequate or non-existent cleaning supplies
  • Other deficiencies in building reopening and safety

See CDC Readiness and Planning Tool to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in K-12 Schools (PDF) regarding what is required and what is recommended on each of these topics, which differs depending on whether the building is in an in-person, hybrid, or distance learning model.

My district or building is not following CDC requirements or recommendations.

Document and attempt to discuss concern with building administrator or COVID coordinator, seek clarity on what the building or district policy is, copy local president.

If no change, request support from your local union. Possible options:

  • Organizing by the local to address concern, including engaging school board and/or parents
  • Reporting violations of safety requirements to your local union
  • Demanding to bargain over safety concerns; Health and Safety are mandatory subjects of bargaining
  • Researching additional Covid-19 resources.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in my community is too high, but my school district or building is still going forward with in-person or hybrid instruction.

Work with your local union to decide on a strategy for influencing the district administration or school board.

Most local statements to the district or the public regarding safety would be protected under FL whistleblower and/or labor law.

Spring 2020 School Closing Resources

Important Links

FLDOE memos

  • May 13 Emergency Order extending educator certificates through December 31, 2020.
  • March 31 memo, closing schools through May 1.
  • March 24 memo (PDF, 755 K) to Superintendents setting goal of implementing distance learning by March 30.
  • March 18 Q&A (PDF, 884 K), additional guidance and clarification regarding the Department’s guidance to school districts related to COVID-19 closures
  • March 17 Guidance, closing all schools through April 15, 2020.

COVID Q&As for Florida Educators

Updated March 31; Posted March 19

Read some common questions educators have about Florida’s students, schools and employees during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be updating this list when new information becomes available.

Distance Learning Resources for Educators and Parents

Updated April 30; Posted March 24

FEA has collected a number of resource for educators and parents to engage in education and distance learning while Florida’s schools are closed due to the COVID pandemic.

Guidance for Educators During Distance Learning

Posted April 30

With most educators conducting distance learning FEA is reminding members of the recommended social media guidelines, never to text students, and how to safely and securely use Google Voice if instructed. (Note: you must be logged in to view these pages).

Q&As and Resources for Parents

Posted March 23

With Florida’s schools closed until at least April 15, we’ve collected some common questions and resources for parents — including links for meals for students in need.

Legislative and Action Updates for COVID-19

Updated April 13; Posted March 19

This is a collection of information about the CARES Act (aka the federal COVID-19 relief legislation) and ways members can to take action to protect students, educators, healthcare professionals and working people.

Member Benefit Resources and Links

Updated April 30; Posted March 20

FEA members and their families enjoy a robust year-round program of member benefits. See what additional resources our benefit partners are providing to help members deal with the COVID pandemic — including info about Student Loan Forgiveness.

FEA Statewide Town Hall on COVID-19

Posted March 27; Transcript added March 30

FEA members, officers and the presidents of AFT and NEA (our national union affiliates) came together for a statewide virtual town hall meeting on COVID-19 and its impact on public education. Watch the town hall or read the transcript.

Posted March 20

The AFL-CIO, the national federation of unions, representing 12.5 million working people has updated When the Paycheck Stops: An AFL-CIO Survival Guide to Unemployment (PDF, 3MB) to include information about COVID-19.