FORT MYERS, Fla. — Teachers union members are calling on the Lee County School Board to put a plan in place.
It comes as Covid-19 cases are surging within the community, causing some schools to experience shortages in teachers. If something isn't done soon, the union is looking to take action.
“I’m not calling for the closure of schools but I do know schools where there were 20 people out today," says Kevin Daly, President of the Teachers' Association of Lee County.
“Since the opening of schools, the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to wreak havoc on the students and staff of the School District of Lee County.” That is an exact quote from a letter submitted by the Teacher’s Association of Lee County to the school board on Friday. Kevin Daly is the President of that teacher’s union.
“We need to talk about all of the things we need to be doing to mitigate the risk associated with this pandemic for staff and students," he says.
The teacher’s union is calling on the school board to have a plan laid out for staff and faculty. That could mean changing the current opt-out policy and taking an entirely different approach when it comes to masks and classrooms.
“At what point does instruction suffer and then at what point does, perhaps, student safety and the ability for us to provide a safe and secure environment kind of get interfered with the amount of staff absences?" asks Daly. "We say it all the time, the employee’s working conditions are the student’s learning conditions.”
In the letter to the school board, the union wrote… ‘We cannot ensure an appropriate level of supervision of students with so many absent educators. The refusal to close schools, when necessary, continues to contribute to the negative morale and burnout that all staff members are currently experiencing.’
“I’ll be the first one to say it- the best place for a student, the best place for my daughter, is in her high school in front of her teachers learning in person," Daly said. "That’s absolutely the best. But if we come to a point where half the staff or thirty-five percent of the staff has to quarantine and they’re not there, for a short period of time what’s the next best solution to that to ensure continuity of learning?”
We did reach out to the school board, who told us they are aware of some teachers being out. They said they are not going to stop looking at safety issues and that they don’t want people to not feel safe. They will continue to monitor the situation, inviting the teacher’s union to meet so that they have everyone’s voice to collectively come up with a solution.
“We’re in there everyday trying to make this work to the best of our abilities in a situation that none of us were trained for, none of us really anticipated happening, and all of us are adjusting to on a reoccurring basis,” said Daly.
Daly says he hopes a plan from the board comes soon. The earliest that can happen is during their next meeting at the end of the month.