OCPS Responds to State Letter With School Board Salaries
October 14, 2021
Superintendent Barbara Jenkins responded to the state's letter requesting the District to comply with the FL DOH mask rule or the state would withhold monies equal to one month of the school board salaries.
State Sends Non-Compliance Letter to Orange County School Board
October 13, 2021
A letter from the FL State Board of Education to the Orange County School Board gave the District 48 hours to comply with the FL Department of Health's September 22, 2021 Emergency Rule that allows a child's parent the right to opt out of a school mask mandate and allows parents to decide whether or not to quarantine a COVID-19 positive, asymptomatic child. (You heard this right - the DOH says COVID-19 positive kids can show up in school.) Non-compliance will result in the state withholding money to the District.
CTA President Wendy Doromal said she expected this outcome:
"Other counties which also have mask mandates to protect school students and employees already received the same letter. The State School Board meeting held last month o rule on withholding funds from noncompliant districts was a sham. The politically appointed board members and politically appointed Dept. of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran predetermined that school districts would be found noncompliant before the orchestrated meeting began.
I agree with the medical experts who call for a mask mandate to remain in place, especially since children under age 12 are not yet eligible for a vaccine. We hope the OCPS leaders will continue the universal mask mandate as long as it is needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in OCPS school and worksites."
(Read more about the State Board of Education meeting at this link. )
"Brevard County lawmaker Randy Fine said he supports the state’s threat.
“I agree with it and I hope they do more,” Fine said. “We have a lawless school board that is suspending and expelling children for refusing to follow an illegal law when the school board itself won’t follow the law. It’s disgusting.”
Meanwhile, the head of the Orange County teachers’ union Wendy Doromal disagrees.
“They’re just pushing a political agenda. We expected that to happen. We just hope school board members continue the mask mandate. We think they have the integrity to do that,” Doromal said. “It’s very unfortunate that we have elected officials that put their politics ahead of people’s health and safety.”
There is a question about whether the Florida Dept. of Health has the authority to make a rule concerning school district regulations. Under Florida law school districts have to provide safe and healthy learning and working conditions.
We await the District's response.
Letter from the State Board of Education:
OCPS Medical Advisory Committee and Mask Up Orlando Advocate for Universal Masks
October 12, 2021
The School Board's Medical Advisory Committee has been an essential and respected voice in making decisions regarding keeping students and employees safe in our schools during the pandemic. Another respected voice is that of the Mask Up OCPS parent group. CTA thanks the MAC and Mask Up Orlando for their advocacy!
If you didn't have a chance to watch the Medical Advisory Committee meeting last week, CTA staff taped it and you can watch it on our Facebook page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/OCCTA7448/videos/195913325948250 .
The Mask Up OCPS group took quotes from the physicians that mirror our efforts to keep a universal mask mandate in place as long as the positivity rate is over 5% and students age 12 and under are not eligible for a vaccine.
Below are the OCPS Medical Advisory Committee members in their own words:
From Mask Up Orlando a compilation of the quotes:
Dr. Adriana Cadilla
“I commend the Board for taking a stand and doing what’s right because one death is one death too many.”
“When you look at the state of Florida, in July we had seven deaths in children up to that point in the pandemic. Since July we have tripled that number to 24 deaths of children under the age of 16.”
“In the United States children under the age of 18 make up 22.4% of the population; however, the week ending Sept 30 that same age group made up 26.7% of all US Covid-19 cases.”
“Our duty is to provide the safest environment to the children that we serve. So, I thank you for continuing to listen to medical reasoning and experts.”
Dr. Michael Muszynski
“With the latest studies we have now gone from a piecemeal collection of data and evidence that face masks work well in preventing the spread of COVID in schools, to now, in my opinion, unequivocal evidence that masks work. And, masks are an integral part of the layering protection that you can provide children in school. It also shows that mandated masking is what works- not piecemeal masking.”
“We’re about halfway there to our 80-85% vaccination goal to keep the virus at bay in the 12 and up population inside the schools. Halfway is almost as good as no way because the rest of the group that are unvaccinated will be viable hosts to the virus without any question.”
“The Physician’s Society of Central Florida has come out this week to strongly recommend continuing mask mandates until we understand this virus better going into the first of 2022P.”
“Once again we are faced with the same question we faced in June: Should we mandate masks because things are way down?”
“It’s a chain of prevention, and the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you let part of the link break, then you let the virus have an opportunity. I don’t know why we would contemplate taking away mitigation measures that we have shown work in our schools and risk having things go back to the way they were.”
“We’re not Belgium. We’re the United States. You cannot compare apples to oranges. Those comparisons are made all the time, and they don’t hold much scientific weight. You have to look at your numbers locally. In the United States 27% of Covid cases are under the age of 18, and that number is climbing. It was under 20% a month ago. So, Covid is still a hotbed in children.”
“We have someone in State leadership position saying, ‘The best immunity against Covid is getting Covid.’ Now, if that makes sense to you, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. The best immunity against a potentially deadly disease is to get it? We would purposely let people get it? We want more people to get it so we can build up herd immunity? That is just a bad idea.”
“These new rules for quarantine by the State make my head spin and left me breathless in its mind-boggling illogic. Here’s a fact: an asymptomatic, infected child is just about as infectious as a symptomatic one. To base quarantine decisions on symptoms only, means you’re going to miss anywhere from 25-30% of cases that are asymptomatic, but just as infectious. It makes absolutely no sense.”
“This is the first time in the history of our state where we are allowing parents to set public health policies and decisions. This is a pandemic- a public health emergency- still, and we can’t have those kinds of options. They won’t work.”
“It was all done under the guise of freedom of choice. But, freedom of choice is a tricky thing. It does not give you the choice to harm others, and that’s what this rule has the potential to do especially when our case rate per 100,000 is still very high.”
“Although their rates are often equal or better than adults. Children DO get COVID. Children DO get hospitalized. And, children die. We don’t want any of that happening to our children. That is where we stand.”
Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi
“The vulnerable population is the unvaccinated population. The kids (under 12) are all susceptible because they are unvaccinated. The mask mandate as a process to control the spread is important. We absolutely need to make sure we protect this population.”
“The pish posh things you’re being asked to do [by the state government] defies logic.”
“Look at every single peak we’ve had from the beginning. Probably the biggest thing that has made a difference in every peak is people’s attitudes towards masking. As soon as people put their masks back on, the numbers just start plummeting, and they keep plummeting until we take the masks off. Then, the numbers start going back up.”
“I know of at least two families where the children brought home Covid and now there is a deceased parent or grandparent. The acceptable death rate due to Covid, for me, is zero. I refuse to allow people to become a statistic to a disease we didn’t know existed 20 months ago. So, if it means wearing a mask until we figure it out, or we get positivity numbers in the community below 5% or lower before we take off these masks, then that’s what it has to be.”
Dr. Annette Nielsen
“Yesterday I admitted a 17-year-old into the ICU of a local pediatric hospital because a younger sibling brought COVID home after exposure in the lunchroom, and now that 17-year-old has a significant challenge ahead of him.”
“I am very grateful and very thankful that the mask mandate is still going on at this point.”
Dr. Vincent Hsu
“I have children that are students here. I know families with children that are under 12 and unvaccinated that have had exposures in the classroom, and I believe because of the mask mandate many of the ‘exposed’ were able to avoid getting infected.”
“Everything we do here is a risk versus a benefit. This committee overwhelming feels that the benefits of universal, mandatory masks outweigh the potential risks or disadvantages at this point.”
(Answering Jenkins’ question on how to best approach the second part of the Emergency Rule that allows for parents to choose whether or not to quarantine a child as long as they remain asymptomatic and have not tested positive)
“The CDC still recommends quarantine and there is not advice at this time above quarantine and testing for what to do after exposure. If there was a provision that a child can go back to school after exposure wearing a mask, plus some sort of testing provision done on a periodic basis, then that would be a safer route than not testing at all.”
Dr. Brian Harris
“We have had two primary surges here. Basically, it’s the same pattern that has happened. We put all these mandates in place. Then, the surge starts to come down. We relax, and what happens is that it starts to surge again. One thing we know, this is a very stubborn virus- it keeps adapting and creating new variants that are more contagious and more burdensome to the healthcare system and community. It does not make sense to take our foot off the gas at this point to protect our children and staff.”
Dr. Omayra Mansfield
“If the idea is to actually have children more in the classroom- to prevent the number of kids out for illness or quarantine- it defies logic that we would allow children that are clearly exposed and unmasked to be around children that wouldn’t otherwise be exposed if a mask mandate were in place.”
Dr. Regan Schwartz
(Answering Jenkins’ question on how to best approach the second part of the Emergency Rule that allows for parents to choose whether or not to quarantine a child as long as they remain asymptomatic and have not tested positive)
“We know that social distancing in the classroom is not ideal. I think masks must be mandated for any exposed child that comes back to school at a minimum in addition to testing.”
“I think it’s incumbent on us as parents, as physicians, as a Board to protect our kids because they can’t protect themselves. We are still seeing very sustained volume in our pediatric ICUs.”
Washington Post Chronicles OCPS Pandemic Related Teacher Exit
October 12, 2021
Washington Post columnist Lizette Alvarez wrote a column yesterday about how Florida teachers are leaving due to the pandemic and safety concerns that focused on OCPS. (Read the Washington Post column at
this link.) From July 2020 to June 2021 a total of 2,099 teachers left OCPS and from July 2021 to September 2021 another 501 teachers resigned or retired. (These figures are based on school board documents provided to the union after every school board meeting.)
“Teachers’ work is sacred. It helps shape our children’s intellect, habits and attitudes. It is also sacrificial: The hours are ridiculously long, the bureaucracy is unyielding and the pay is insultingly low — particularly in Florida. The state ranked among the lowest in teachers salaries until this year when new teachers finally got raises and has seen housing costs jump considerably. The covid-19 pandemic — which spiked to its highest level in Florida this past summer — has made the demands even more exhausting.”
Preliminary results from a Health and Safety Survey CTA is conducting shows another 497 teachers say they are considering resigning or retiring early and an additional 104 teachers said they were considering a leave of absence due to health and safety concerns.
Orange County Public School leaders have to do a better job if they want to retain and recruit quality teachers.
A good start would be ending the unilateral, autocratic directives and policies, and working collaboratively with the union, parents and other stakeholders to ensure there are adequate protections to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and worksites. OCPS rejected the proposed MOU that CTA presented at the bargaining table in July and returned it with snippy boxed messages like, “Need flexibility to respond to changes with the pandemic; limits School Board authority to pivot as changes occur.” The District is basically saying, “We do not want to bargain. We want sole control over health and safety issues.”
The District does not want to sign an agreement that is enforceable and teachers do not want to work during a pandemic without an enforceable agreement.
The MOU presented had the same provisions that the District agreed to and signed for last school year and summer school.
University High School teacher, Gretchen Robinson outlined what it’s like to teach during a pandemic:
"I don’t think those in power appreciate the worth of what we do,” said Robinson, a 20-year education veteran who teaches at University High School. “Everybody is double- and triple-timing it. I am having stress dreams about work, about the 17 hours a day we are routinely putting in.”
Certainly, the government has only made teachers’ lives harder. Robinson said she feels whipsawed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s antediluvian approach to the covid-19 virus. Sacrifice suddenly has its limits.
Two months ago, DeSantis (R) forbade school district administrators to require masks. Now, school boards that mandate them are being fined. They cannot force covid-exposed students to quarantine. And Florida almost lost out on $2.3 billion in federal aid for schools this fall because it was the only state that chose not to apply for the third round of covid relief. After a swift and loud outcry, the DeSantis administration reversed course on Thursday."
State Board of Education Meeting Supported Governor's Political Agenda
October 7 2021
The Florida State Board Of Education met today at 1:00pm. (https://www.fldoe.org/policy/state-board-of-edu/meetings/2021/2021-10-07/). The meeting was an orchestrated political show. Callers in favor of masks were rudely cut off by the chair and told that they were not following the agenda. There was only one item on their agenda, which was: “Consideration of Probable Cause for Noncompliance with Department of Health Emergency Rule 64DER21-15, Protocols for Controlling COVID-19 in School Settings” for Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and Sarasota.
Each District Superintendent , including OCPS Superintendent Dr. Jenkins, spoke to the board's decision to find the school Districts in noncompliance. For each agenda item, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran read a motion to find each school district out of compliance with the state's rule to allow parents the right to opt out on their child wearing a mask to school. The politically-appointed members of the board all unanimously agreed with the motion each time it was read.
Yesterday, I was interviewed by NPR regarding today’s State Education Board meeting: https://www.wmfe.org/orange-county-cta-president-to-board-of-education-let-districts-keep-mask-mandates-in-place-without-penalties/191335 . With no vaccine for children under age 12; no social distancing possible in crowded schools and classrooms; high positivity rates continuing; and former CDC-recommendations not being in place or enforced this school year, universal masking is essential.
It is unfortunate that the Governor DeSantis, DOE Commissioner Corcoran and the politically appointed members of the Florida State School Board push a dangerous political agenda rather than to enact policies that will protect the health and lives of Florida’s children, school employees and community members.
More Mask News
Orange County District leaders reportedly admit mask mandates have played a role in reducing COVID-19 cases, according to a story on Channel 9:
At a meeting on Thursday, Orange County Public School leaders said they have seen a drastic drop in COVID-19 cases.
"A doctor on the OCPS medical advisory committee said the evidence is indisputable.
“Masks work and masks are an integral and important part of the layering protection that you can provide children in schools,” Dr. Michael Muszynski said.
The mask mandate for Orange County schools is set to expire at the end of the month. Most members of the medical advisory committee called for the policy to stay until cases get to safer levels."
On August 2nd, CTA proposed a universal mask mandate as part of our proposed memorandum of understanding presented at the bargaining table. The District rejected our mask proposal and other essential CDC-recommended protocols that are necessary to protect students and employees during a pandemic. Imagine how many infected students and teachers could have been spared from contracting COVID-19 had the District taken the needed precautions when the union proposed them?
The District leaders must own the off-the-chart positive COVID-19 case numbers we saw in the first months of this school year. In fact, while districts like Miami-Dade and Broward kept their COVID-19 cases numbers in the 2,000's, the OCPS COVID case numbers for August and September this school year (7,015) exceeded the total number of COVID-19 cases for the entire school year last year -August 2020 to the end of May 2021 (6,970 cases). Every control-seeking, uncollaborative OCPS District leader is responsible for the in-school spread, the illness, the suffering and possible deaths (unlike other school districts, OCPS hides the deaths of students and employees) that could have been prevented.
Orlando Sentinel - Masks Work
Florida is Only State Not to Apply for ESSER 3 Funds - Updated October 7, 2021
October 7, 2021
Today Florida finally submitted their 342-page plan for the $2.3B COVID-19 relief funds. Florida was the last state to submit a plan that was due in June.
"The state Department of Education proposes hiring up to 2,000 additional reading coaches, making summer school available for students who need the most help and improving assessments to identify student progress.
The plan also calls for spending on supplies to help keep schools safer, such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, cloth masks and bleach wipes. . . "
Now we wait to see when they will release funds to school districts. . .
Read more at this link: https://apnews.com/article/science-business-us-department-of-education-florida-education-236b795aac50d11c2b1d7955d1b141f4?fbclid=IwAR2U8LmEupiKQ3aSFjKfEj3O51iZjEHo7ZLhCNiF5C6V5LehTPbobssLJow
October 6, 2021
The State of Florida is the only state that has not submitted a plan to the U.S. DOE to receive $2.3B in ESSER 3 American Rescue Plan funds for Florida's school districts related to the pandemic. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran received a letter from Ian Rosenblum, U.S. Dept. Of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, which you can read below:
"The ARP ESSER State plan is a vital public document that demonstrates how a State met critical requirements for stakeholder engagement and public transparency. It also provides an opportunity for each State to describe how it will use the funds it is required to reserve under the ARP Act, totaling up to 10 percent of the State’s total allocation. As the Department previously indicated, FDOE may choose to use the portion of the State reserve available to an SEA for emergency needs (up to 3 percent of the State’s total allocation) to provide premium pay to teachers. However, we have not received a plan to indicate that you intend to spend funding towards this effort. The ARP Act also requires that each State reserve funds to address the impact of lost instructional time (at least 5 percent of the State’s total allocation), provide summer learning and enrichment programs (at least 1 percent of the State’s total allocation), and provide comprehensive after school programs (at least 1 percent of the State’s total allocation); for example, some SEAs have used their State plans to document evidence-based initiatives like high-dosage tutoring, work-based learning opportunities, expanding access to school counselors, and increasing mental health services."
Our state leaders need to immediately submit a plan for the ESSER 3 American Rescue Act Plan Funds. In Orange County Public Schools we have about 200 teacher positions unfilled, a lack of substitutes, a lack of bus drivers, a lack of custodians, and a lack of PPE supplies as reported by teachers, and there are numerous other needs to fill that require this funding.
How does OCPS spend its ESSER funds? You can see a breakdown of expenditures at this link from the OCPS website.
At the September 28, 2021 OCPS School Board Meeting (at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw5GUCdBm_Q) there was a discussion on ESSER spending. Download File (ESSER Plan update 9.27.21 final.pdf).
In response to the ESSER presentation, CTA submitted the following clarifying questions to the District and we await their response:
By law the District is required to get initial and ongoing input from stakeholders: Download File (ESSER.GEER_.FAQs_5.26.21_745AM_FINALb0cd6833f6f46e03ba2d97d30aff953260028045f9ef3b18ea602db4b32b1d99.pdf)
"In developing its plan, an LEA must engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders including students; families; school and district administrators (including special education administrators); and teachers, principals, school leaders, other educators, school staff, and their unions. An LEA must also engage in meaningful consultation with each of the following to the extent present in or served by the LEA: Tribes; civil rights organizations (including disability rights organizations); and stakeholders representing the interests of children with disabilities, English learners, children experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, migratory students, children who are incarcerated, and other underserved students. An LEA should translate relevant materials and obtain the services of interpreters, as needed, to engage its English learners and families with limited English proficiency. An LEA must provide the public the opportunity to provide input on the development of the plan, take such input into account, and post the LEA ARP ESSER plan on its website."
The District has heard (and mostly rejected) CTA's recommendations for ESSER fund spending through bargaining sessions, but has not met with us to discuss ESSER spending recommendations at any other time or meeting since the initial District-run meeting for "discussions" held in April 2021. CTA submitted the following recommendations to the District in April:
CTA appeals to the District leaders to collaborate with the union and other stakeholders in prioritizing the spending of ESSER funds.
OCPS Responds to Corcoran Regarding Mask Policy
September 28, 2021
Florida Department of Education Commission Richard Corcoran's September 23, 2021 Letter to the School Board (Orange_FDOE Letter_9.23.21.pdf) outlines the new parent-choice quarantine rule and threatens to withhold funds of schools board members if they do not comply with the state's parent choice mask rule.
The Superintendent and School Board Chair replied with a letter on September 24, 2021 that argues every point that CTA made when fighting for health and safety provisions at the bargaining table! Letter below:
In their first four-page letter to Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, dated September 1, 2021 Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and Chair Teresa Jacobs echoed CTA's arguments for adopting the universal mask mandate in defending their policy.
The pair detail CDC-guidelines on social distancing, just like CTA did at the bargaining table in early August when we asked for maximum social distancing considering over 200,000 students were expected to return to face-to-face classes. Interesting that they acknowledge social distancing as a necessary protection now, but didn't at the bargaining table. The District rejected our proposed provisions for virtual meetings, limiting non-essential visitors and restrictions on walkthroughs by teams, and other social distancing clauses.
On page two in their second argument they parrot CTA's argument that children under age 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines, therefore more protections must be in place. From the letter, "However, students under the age of 12 are not currently eligible for the vaccine, meaning control of the virus is especially difficult in elementary schools." Sounds just like the CTA President, yet the district refused to negotiate in good faith on an agreement to provide health and safety protections for students and teachers.
Other elements in the letter were repeatedly highlighted by the CTA President in the unsuccessful bargaining sessions - the high positivity rate, the increase in cases among young children, the surge due to the Delta variant, etc. This is exactly what CTA said when we presented the District our proposed Memorandum of Understanding with a universal masking provision before students returned to classes. The very proposal that the District rejected because “The School Board and district leaders need to maintain control and must have the opportunity to pivot when they want”, according to the District's chief negotiator. So how did that work out? The positive case count in August 2021 (3,910) surpassed the total positive case count for August, September, October, November, December and the first two weeks of January for the last school year. The District duo even used that same CTA mantra in their letter.
At the early August bargaining meetings CTA reminded the Chief Negotiator of the School Board's duty to provide health and safe schools. That same argument was also included in the letter.
The glaring difference in the District's letter and CTA position is that one essential element is missing. Their letter does not even contain the word "teacher" - not once.
Sometimes the people who insist on maintaining control (rather than negotiating and bargaining in good faith) can steer you right over a cliff. That is just what happened when the District rejected CTA's proposal, and as they admitted in the letter led to 3, 910 positive COVID-19 cases in August.
Read the letter below:
Let's Do Our Part to Stop the Pandemic! Get Vaccinated!
September 27, 2021
President Doromal got her booster shot earlier this month and continues to advocate for everyone to get vaccinated so we can reach herd immunity to put an end to this pandemic!
OCPS employees still have time to get $200 from OCPS for showing proof of vaccination. You have to apply before October 31, 2021.
Instructions from OCPS:
OCPS employees who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 are eligible to receive a $200 incentive made possible by ESSER grant funds. This incentive is available to all employees, even if they were vaccinated before the incentive was announced. Fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after an individual’s second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
In order to take advantage of this incentive, employees who haven’t begun the vaccination process should be aware of the following dates:
Moderna vaccine: would have to receive the first dose on/before Sept. 19, 2021, followed by the second dose on/before Oct. 17.
Pfizer vaccine: would have to receive the first dose on/before Sept. 26, 2021, followed by the second dose on/before Oct. 17.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine: deadline is Oct. 17, 2021.
Confirmation of vaccination can be submitted on the MyOCPS portal using the following instructions.
1. Access the MyOCPS portal at https://sapportal.ocps.net/ and log on using your personnel number and password.
2. Select the Employee Self-Service tab.
3. Click the Benefits link.
4. Under Benefits Participation, select Vaccination Confirmation.
5. Read the Vaccination Confirmation statement.
6. If you agree with the Vaccination Confirmation Statement and you have completed your COVID-19 vaccination, click Submit.
The deadline to submit your confirmation of vaccination is Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.
Learn more about vaccines -
The CDC has information on vaccinations at this link.
For a list of current Orlando vaccination sites click the links below:
Currently every person over age twelve can get vaccinated. Children under age 18 require parental consent. It was announced that it is expected that vaccines may be available by October 2021 for children ages 5-12.
Please get vaccinated so you can be protected and we can get closer to ending this pandemic! Medical experts say that we need at least 80% of all Americans to be vaccinated to reach the herd immunity threshold to stop the spread of COVID -19 and return to “normal” conditions. We need to stop this virus. Vaccination is one key element in making this happen!
Check out some CTA members proud to do their part in ending the pandemic!
Health and Safety Impasse Hearing - October 7th and 8th
September 24, 2021
CTA declared impasse when the District would not agree to sign off on even the most fundamental CDC-recommended health and safety protections - the same protections that they had signed off on for the 2020-2021 school year and the 2021 summer school. This school year we need enforceable protections more than ever before as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate has been much higher. Additionally, this school year, schools have twice the number of face-to-face students than they had last school year.
CTA continues to advocate for an enforceable agreement that provides for health and safety protections for teachers. The District’s final counter proposal removed CDC-recommended protections including: limiting nonessential visitors; limiting walkthroughs; allowing the MOU to prevail over the OCPS Health and Safety Manual; offering the option of attending meetings virtually when possible; school clinic procedures for sick/well students; informing all staff of positive COVID-19 cases and quarantines at their school or worksite; following CDC guidelines on masking; cleaning and disinfecting and social distancing guidelines; home visits not being required; teachers not being held responsible for COVID-19 cases traced to their classrooms; no hybrid or audio or visual instruction required for face-to-face teachers, etc.
You may recall that last school year, CTA also had to declare impasse to ensure CDC-recommended protections were in place. The special magistrate agreed with about 40 of CTA's proposed articles and made moderate changes to only four. Learn more about last year's impasse hearing/decision, the December 2020 Health & Safety MOU and other health and safety related news at these links:
There is a new OCCTA survey meant to evaluate working conditions, needs and concerns that all members of our bargaining unit are experiencing during this pandemic. We need to hear from you, so we can better serve you! Please take the time today to complete this survey. Share it with other OCPS teachers and instructional personnel (questions are for members of our bargaining unit -not other OCPS employees.) The survey is at this link: https://leadernet.aft.org/webform/september-2021-covid-19-safe-school-and-worksite-survey
Surgeon General Issues Parent Choice Rule for Quarantining
September 23, 2021
The newly appointed Florida Surgeon General has issued a rule that parents get to decide whether their asymptomatic child who has been directly exposed to COVID-19 will quarantine. That's right - parents will decide if their children who may be COVID-19 positive, and may not have been tested will attend school to potentially spread the virus on the bus, in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in the hallways and everywhere else. As if maintaining protection during this pandemic has not been enough of a challenge, now the state’s head physician will allow parents to play Russian Roulette with the health of other students, educators and the community at large. With more students on campus and less social distancing what do our state and District leaders do? They eliminate protections that were in place last year and also reduce transparency to make learning and teaching in our schools extra fearful and uncertain.
WHAT IS THE POSITION OF OCPS? The District put out a notice on Facebook saying that their attorneys were reviewing the Florida Department of Health's new rule that was issued by the surgeon general:
Yet, that same evening the District sent an email notifying the parents and employees of the new rule, as if OCPS already adopted it:
In the morning of September 23, 2021, the 1st rule was posted on the OCPS website:
Later in the afternoon of September 23, 2021, the District took down the original student quarantine policy and replaced it with the Surgeon General's new rule giving parents choice in deciding whether or not to quarantine their child.
(Go to OCPS.net, click the box that says, "Back to School FAQs", Click words on left that say, "COVID-19 Protocols-Students", Click "English" under "Students". )
Apparently the District adopted the state's new, dangerous parent choice quarantine policy? CTA was not noticed, but of course the District seldom collaborates with the union.
Some more background on the new surgeon general - The surgeon general has not yet been confirmed by the Florida Senate, but is already making rules and taking actions. He has been licensed to practice medicine in Florida for only two weeks. The Orlando Sentinel outlined his background in an editorial (this link). Some snippets from the Sentinel article:
“Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed a new state surgeon general Tuesday who has written essays questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, the effectiveness of masks and favoring hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted by former President Donald Trump to treat the virus."
"Ladapo also is the author of several op-eds questioning vaccines and downplaying the effectiveness of masks."
"Did we mention that Florida’s now up to a nation-leading 376 people dying from COVID every day during the past week, and that Florida is now No. 10 among states with the highest rates of COVID deaths since the pandemic began.”
There is certainly reason for concern as the FLDOH could not even keep up with quarantines in schools. Some students got quarantine letters after they returned to school. An article about the lags in reporting from the West Orange Times at this link stated:
“It is taking four to five business days for them to issue quarantine, then a day for them to actually contact the families and quarantine the student,” said a Horizon West Middle School parent who also asked to remain anonymous. “I believe the biggest issue for contact has been the weekend. It seems to me that they don’t notify or trace over the weekend, which is causing more exposures.”
Other stories on the new quarantine rule and the Florida's new surgeon general are at these links:
Listen to President Doromal on NPR at this link
OCPS UNIVERSAL MASK MANDATE BEGINS TODAY
August 30, 2021
Last week AFT and FEA joined CTA to support our efforts to institute a universal mask mandate and restore the health and safety protections that were in place last year, but were unilaterally eliminated by the District before school began.
We know that CDC-recommended protections can reduce the spread and the number of quarantines so more uninterrupted teaching and learning can take place. The positive case count this August (3,289) has surpassed the total positive case count for August, September, October, November, December and the first two weeks of January for the last school year. Let that sink in. We must continue to advocate for safe and healthy schools!
On Monday CTA held a press conference to urge the Superintendent and School Board to adopt a universal mask mandate to protect our students, employees and com