Hundreds of Collier County teachers protest in-person learning mandate

Posted at 8:24 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 20:24:42-04

COLLIER COUNTY — Hundreds of teachers in Collier County have a message for the School Board: "School online until cases decline."

They held a drive-by protest in front of the school administration building Monday.

“It doesn’t make sense to me at all that it would be safe for us, knowing that we are a COVID-19 hot spot," said Kelly Romero-Bettridge, an 11th Grade teacher at Naples High School.

Teachers are worried about going back to school, because COVID-19 numbers in Collier County aren’t going down. More than 70 new cases were reported Monday, and the county has more than a 15% positivity rate, higher than anywhere else in southwest Florida.

“There’s not a teacher in this county who doesn’t want to be back with their kids, but not at any cost," said Jonathan Tuttle, the Executive Director for the Collier County Education Association.

Tuttle says these teachers are fighting for their health and safety, but they have a tough battle ahead.

Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Education issued an executive order, telling all school districts they had to offer some kind of in-person option. That’s in-line with what President Trump has called for.

“We want to get them open, quickly, beautifully in the fall," said Mr. Trump during a meeting at the White House back on July 7th.

That’s why Collier County Schools says it's up against the wall.

“When we read this order from the state Department of Education, your mind immediately pivots to, not only do we need to provide virtual options, because we know for many of our families, that’s what they would choose. We also have to offer the in-person experience," said Chad Oliver, the Executive Communications Director for the district.

But teachers like Romero-Bettridge say, in Collier County, things should be different.

“I actually think that that mandate could probably be challenged, because I’m not entirely sure that the Education Commissioner, or the Governor, has full authority to issue that mandate in the first place," said Romero-Bettridge.

Teachers chose to hold their protest Monday, because the School Board will be meeting Tuesday to discuss what to do about the upcoming school year. That meeting will take place at the Administrative Center at 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.