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Teachers in Florida Push Back Against Reopening Mandate

July 24, 2020

Teachers in Florida Push Back Against Reopening Mandate

How should schools decide how to reopen in the fall? Use this lesson plan to explore why teachers are pushing back against reopening mandates.


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Teachers Fight Back Against Florida Reopening Mandate

While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urges schools to reopen in person in the fall, some officials are hesitant, citing health risks. Schools across the country are considering online, hybrid and in-person methods of education for the fall. Florida is one of the many states in the U.S. experiencing a surge of coronavirus infections — but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the state’s education commissioner are still calling for schools to open in person.Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions about the reopening mandate and what schools should consider. This video has been edited for length — to watch the video in its entirety and read the transcript, click here. Consider supplementing your lesson with this PBS NewsHour story, “Why schools should open in the fall — how to keep them safe.”

  • Florida recently set a national record for the most new coronavirus cases reported in a single day (15,000). The state is expected to surpass 300,000 total cases soon.
  • Frederick Ingram, President of the Florida Education Association, says that Florida superintendents, school boards, local leaders and local teachers unions have been working to devise safety solutions for their individual districts.
  • Ingram says that safe in person education will be more expensive than in previous years, due to necessary protective measures such as school ventilation and cleaning, smaller class sizes that could allow social distancing and infrastructural challenges such as lunchrooms, buses and assemblies.
  • The Trump administration has cited an American Academy of Pediatrics statement in order to support its in-person schooling position. The AAP has since responded by issuing a statement saying, in part, that only health concerns should determine when schools open and that the administration’s threats to withhold funding from schools that don’t open in person are “misguided.”

Discussion Questions: Reopening Mandate and Safety

  1. Essential question: How should schools decide how to reopen in the fall?
  2. How does the coronavirus pandemic affect existing educational gaps? What will differences in funding between school districts mean for implementing safe and effective schooling this year?
  3. What are the benefits and drawbacks of individual districts designing their own safety plans?
    • How does federalism (= leaving decision-making to states and municipalities rather than through national regulation) make public health response to a pandemic either more or less effective?
  4. What services do schools traditionally provide for a community besides education for students? Do you think schools will be able to provide some of those services in remote formats? How can federal, state and local governments step in to fill those gaps?
  5. Media literacy: Why do you think the producer of this segment chose to focus on Florida? What can stories about specific states tell us about the nation as a whole?
    1. When you watch the news, are you more engaged when you hear a story focused on a specific place or when you hear a story that describes large national trends? 
florida covid graph: is the reopening mandate wrong? why?

COVID-19 Data by Google for Florida.

Additional Resources

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra

PBS NewsHour Classroom
PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories. The site combines the best of NewsHour's reliable, trustworthy news program with lesson plans developed specifically for... See More

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