This letter from FEA President Fedrick Ingram was sent to the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 14.
Office of Governor Ron DeSantis
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
April 14, 2020
Dear Governor DeSantis:
The safety and wellbeing of all Florida’s citizens are of the utmost importance, and we appreciate the efforts you have taken to ensure safety during these unprecedented times, especially for the students of Florida and the faculty and staff who serve them.
On behalf of the members of the Florida Education Association, I am requesting that we keep school campuses closed for the remainder of the school year. In three weeks, teachers have been asked to rethink, refocus and redirect their classroom instruction for students through distance learning. Our teachers have risen to the challenge. While we have concerns with distance learning and the inevitable inequities that result from it, we are committed to serving the students and parents of Florida on the various platforms until the school year ends.
We know our public schools serve as refuge for many students, that our campuses provide them with meals, education and a safe haven with committed staff. As much as our students and educators want the opportunity to be back at our schools, returning prematurely will threaten the safety and wellbeing of all on campus. Statewide, almost 20 percent of schools average more than 1,000 students in attendance daily. The numbers are much higher when faculty and staff are accounted for. Social distancing does not happen when schools are in session, as is apparent in any kindergarten classroom, middle school cafeteria or high school hallway as students move from one class to another.
COVID-19 presents more questions than answers. It also presents a threat that we cannot control. The potential damage that could be done to families and entire communities from an outbreak of COVID-19 at even one school far outweighs the inconvenience of continuing distance learning for the rest of the school year.
In mid-March, Dr. Anthony Fauci told a concerned nation, “If it looks like you are overreacting, you are probably doing the right thing.” If you decide to keep school campuses closed for the duration of the school year, there will undoubtedly be those who will accuse your administration of overreacting. Governor, we are calling on your leadership. Now is the time to listen to the medical experts. Now is the time to provide clarity for students, parents and educators throughout the state.
Governor DeSantis, let’s lead together. Now is the time to declare the previously unthinkable: School campuses will be closed to students for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, and education will continue to happen at a distance.
President, Florida Education Association
213 S. Adams St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301
cc: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran; Florida district superintendents