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Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 8:50AM

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AUGUST 28, 2020

 

COVID-19 Positive at OCPS?

MEDICAL LETTER

OCCTA is fighting for the safety and health of every student, teacher and community member. We are greatly concerned with the District’s plans, procedures and policies concerning reopening of schools that were created by the District with no input from the union or teachers. We are especially concerned with the District’s lack of urgency, lack of honesty and lack of transparency in releasing data and documentation on positive cases of COVID-19 in schools.

The court-ordered documentation that the District provided to OCCTA was late, sloppy and incoherent. Instead of identifying names of worksites and schools, the lists contained dozens of names of job descriptions and departments. The first list delivered after the deadline and a second updated list that was delivered 6 days later, both lacked requested information. How could there possibly be effective contact tracing with such a sloppy and unorganized system? How can health and safety of individuals be protected?

This week the union heard from several teachers who tested positive for COVID-19. We also heard from teachers who work at schools where positive cases have been identified. All are concerned that neither their schools and/or the District did not notify faculty, staff and/or parents in a timely manner, or at all. One teacher who tested positive, notified the school principal. Days later parents and teachers at the school still had not been alerted. Other teachers expressed similar concerns. At one school the person who tested positive had been in a face-to-face faculty meeting and it was not until days later that some of those present were alerted. How does it make sense to withhold information that could put health and lives at risk? Is this being done under orders of the Commissioner of Education?

The District has sent the letter seen here to teachers who have tested positive. Several expressed concern with the line, “You are to not to . . .discuss reasons related to your Medical Relief of Duty status.” The District should not, and cannot, make any attempt to restrict a person’s constitutional rights or freedom of speech. Most teachers who have tested positive feel a moral obligation to inform others so they can take steps to get tested, protect their health and prevent community spread. Those employees who test positive absolutely can speak up if they have COVID-19. If you are afraid contact OCCTA and we will announce the school or worksite.

What is this meaning of this line,"Since you are being paid during this time, you are to remain available during working hours." What? A person is sick and they are to remain "available"? For what?

Also disturbing were the comments made by Dr. Pino at a press conference yesterday. He explained that if a student is COVID-19 positive only some parents would be notified depending on a seating chart provided by the District. Is this for real? Students move in a room. They pass others to get to their seat. They get up to retrieve materials or to use the restroom. They pass others when they leave. In some classes there are no windows. In most OCPS schools the ventilation is poor and filters are not up to standards required to block COVID-19.

Considering this District has ordered hundreds of instructional personnel and teachers with approved ADA accommodations back to schools or worksites we condemn the lack of enforcement of social distancing and mask policies, and the lack of urgency in notifying teachers, students and the public of schools and worksites with positive COVID-19 cases. OCCTA is continuing to notify each principal where violations of social distancing, mask policies and the safety and health of employees and students is at risk. We are filing grievances in cases where corrective action is not being made. If you are a member and you believe your health or safety is at risk contact us immediately at orangecta@gmail.com with your full name, school or worksite, and contact information.


August 26, 2020

District Fails to Provide Complete Documents Regarding COVID-19 Cases

Press Relase

On July 31, 2020, OCCTA filed a lawsuit against Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and the District’s refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community.

On August 17, 2020, Judge Donald Meyers, Jr. ruled in favor of OCCTA and ordered OCPS to turn over "a list of names of all worksites where there are and/or have been employees, students, visitors, vendors, or any other individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 1, 2020 . . ." The order called for the District to turn the documents over to OCCTA within 48 hours of the August 17, 2020 hearing. (Read the Final Judgement at this link:

/z/-vf.0.0.0.9657.AD1206F6FC5BB7EF61E942F0656256F131C5F2DB3FB78B44A069506C29573AFD

The District not only failed to meet the deadline, but turned over an incomplete and convoluted record to OCCTA. The record contained the names of 192 schools and worksites. It also contained hundreds of names of job descriptions and departments rather than the names of the worksites and schools. After a local media outlet published the incomplete list, teachers and parents contacted OCCTA to inform us of names of schools and worksites that were omitted from the record. (Read it at this link:

/z/-vf.0.0.0.9658.A74880E0E4894E18EBA23D040A5BBDFA5B601743B125BCCCF73E81E3B2B4CC3C .)

OCCTA attorneys contacted OCPS Attorney John Palmerini on multiple occasions to demand the correct information. Finally, on Monday, August 25, 2020, six days after the records were due, Mr. Palmerini sent OCCTA another incomplete set of records. (Read it at this link:

/z/-vf.0.0.0.9659.40F9DAC8300F44E46BA8419E8455563EEA054BCDE3A467CD62CF1495E1A58274.)

OCCTA condemns the District’s lack of transparency and failure to respect and adhere to the judge’s order. The District has continually failed to collaborate in good faith or work with OCCTA to find real solutions and make comprehensive plans. It continues to fail to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

OCCTA is gravely concerned about the health and safety of every OCPS student, employee, their family members and community at large. We were notified that a teacher tested positive for COVID-19 multiple times. She notified her principal who contacted the OCPS Department of Professional Standards, which monitors and oversees procedures and policies for those employees and students who test positive for COVID-19. The teacher reported she did not have a fever, but continued to have shortness of breath and difficulties breathing. After hearing of her test results and symptoms, the OCPS Department of Professional Standards sent her the following email message: “I cannot advise you to stay at home or come to work. You do not meet the criteria for relief of duty with pay. If you still feel sick and decide not to come into work, you will have to use your own leave.” The teacher reported to work, even though she had not recovered and tested positive.

An elementary school teacher emailed OCCTA to report that she was not feeling well so she went for a rapid COVID-19 test, which came back negative and she reported to work. After developing more symptoms, a second test came back positive, so she notified her principal. The teacher is concerned because as of Wednesday, OCPS still had not informed teachers or parents. The teacher believes that the class was exposed on Friday, August 31, 2020 and stated that the administrators are following orders from the District.

A middle school teacher contacted OCCTA on Friday with this question: “What is the procedure when someone at work tests positive? I was just told that someone who was in the office area with me tested positive but no one has formally notified me. Will students and their families be notified before they send their kids to campus tomorrow?”

Here is another concern: “We have a teacher that had a student test positive today. The student was in her classroom yesterday. She was told that contact tracing will be done, but that she is to tell no one about it and that she is to report to school as normal tomorrow. She was told that someone would contact her. She was also told that she will be given a script to use with her students tomorrow. She is very concerned since this student was just in her room yesterday and tested positive. She is worried that if more kids get sick that there could be repercussions for her. She is also afraid of testing positive herself.”

OCCTA has heard from others who reported that they or others tested positive for COVID-19 and their school was not listed on the documents the District gave to OCCTA. Others also reported positive cases at their schools or worksites and no notification went out to staff or parents. OCCTA believes that it is especially important that positive cases be revealed immediately and to everyone who was in contact with the person who tested positive.

This is especially important because OCPS does not protect many teachers who have health issues or family members that they care for who have health issues. They have applied for and received ADA accommodations. However, their administrators told them that there are no virtual positions so they may resign, take extended leave or accept a face-to-face position. Some have fearfully consented to teach face-to-face because they need insurance to cover medical expenses.

Today we learned that all ESE teachers, counselors and other instructional personnel who had been given ADA accommodations and allowed to work from home are now being required to report to their schools or worksites.  Even teachers who have no face-to-face students are being required to report to their schools and teach LaunchED from their empty classrooms. This includes fearful teachers who have received ADA accommodations.  If you received approval for ADA accommodations, and are being required to report to a school or worksite and fear for your health and safety, contact OCCTA at

orangecta@gmail.com

to file a grievance. Include your name, the name of your school or worksite and immediate supervisor or principal.

At least 5 teachers have resigned since Friday alone. How many more teachers is this District willing to lose?

On August 25, 2020, it was reported by The Hill that since Florida schools opened for face-to-face instruction, there have been 9,000 new COVID-19 cases for children under age 18. We demand that the District reveal the names of each worksite and school where positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified on a daily basis, so teachers, parents and the public can make a fact-based decision as to whether or not they will report to work or school. The District’s behavior demonstrates a total lack of compassion, common sense and consideration for the safety and health of the workforce, students and community.

It appears our attorney’s letter to OCPS inspired the district to release at least some information regarding COVID-19 cases to parents and teachers. The list is not complete, according to teachers who have COVID-19 or know of peers in their schools that do.  One teacher said this about the District’s message: “And now tonight OCPS sent out the following email, and STILL the teachers who were in a meeting with our confirmed teacher have not been contacted. The email from the county also states that all of the principals informed the parents at the schools, that did not happen in our case either.”

OCCTA will continue to fight for the health, safety of each student, parent and educator. The District and its leadership must and will be held accountable for the inevitable consequences of their reckless actions.

 

Palmerini letter

palmerini 2

 


August 24, 2020 - FEA Press Release

Florida educators win temporary injunction against executive order

TALLAHASSEE —

The Florida Education Association (FEA) appreciates that Circuit Judge Charles Dodson has granted our motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order. Districts’ hands will not be tied as our lawsuit moves forward to examine the order’s constitutionality.

As demonstrated in his ruling, Circuit Judge Dodson clearly recognizes the magnitude of this case and the importance of protecting students and educators. “Accordingly, our Florida Constitution requires the State to ensure our schools operate safely. Defendants, however, through the Order and its application, have essentially ignored the requirement of school safety by requiring the statewide opening of brick-and-mortar schools to receive already allocated funding,” the 

judge’s order 

(link is external) states.

“We appreciate that Judge Dodson acknowledged the crucial importance of protecting the health and wellbeing of kids and school employees. We have seen little sign that is a top priority for the DeSantis administration. Commissioner Corcoran appears more focused on threatening teachers and districts,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “This is only a temporary injunction, but we plan to press ahead in court. Local communities should have the freedom to make the best decisions for reopening or keeping open local schools. Our districts should not be ruled by reckless edicts from on high. Safety must come before politics.”

The leaders of FEA’s national affiliates spoke out on this victory for students and educators.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten:

“This is a remarkable victory. Today, Judge Dodson saw Florida’s unconstitutional executive order for what it was — a cynical edict that put fealty to President Trump over the wellbeing of children and educators. The judge ruled that decisions about reopening should be made locally, not dictated by the state, either directly or through funding decisions. He found for educators who have been trying to keep kids, families and our communities safe since April.

“We agree with the judge that teachers are the foundation of public education and that public school classrooms are the best place for kids, but safety has to come first. Still, it is almost incomprehensible that educators had to go to court to force Governor DeSantis and his education commissioner to comply with the constitution and start caring about the people they’re sworn to serve.

“The good news is this decision, if not appealed, will allow us to work with districts and the community to negotiate a safe reopening based on safety and science, rather than politics. We expect the state to appeal – but make no mistake, if a stay is granted then Gov. DeSantis will be responsible for the mounting toll on the community of his arbitrary and capricious agenda.” ‚Äč

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Today’s decision by Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to grant FEA’s motion for a temporary injunction against Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s executive order is a victory for students and educators from being forced into unsafe school buildings. Our number one priority is and has always been the health and safety of students, educators and their families. Across the country, schools are struggling to physically reopen safely because of the Trump Administration’s failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their lack of leadership — and kicking the can down to governors to implement an ad hoc patchwork — has created chaos, uncertainty and, frankly, cost lives. Gov. Ron DeSantis, like Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, has shown he has no plan to solve the real issues facing public schools during a pandemic, and the rhetoric out of his administration is appallingly reckless. And the court ruling also acknowledges that school districts should be able to make decisions without the fear of lost funding or other retaliatory actions. We already know that this pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequities facing our most vulnerable students, in particular students of color and children living in poverty, and threatening to withhold funding unless school buildings reopen is nothing more than a bullying tactic. Schools need significant funding in order to provide quality distance education, and quality distance learning requires substantial investments. Distance learning means ensuring students receive the meals, technology, and internet connectivity to fully participate in their education like they would in a traditional school day — as well as providing professional development to help educators shift to online or remote instruction. The 3 million members of the National Education Association will continue to fight for the health and safety of students, educators and their families as schools and college campuses return to in-person learning.”

About the suit:

The constitutionality of executive order 2020-EO-06 is the heart of Florida

Education Association et al v. Ron DeSantis, as Governor of the State of Florida et al

(link is external) case number 2020-CA-001450 in the Second Judicial Circuit, Leon County. As mandated by the state’s Constitution, Floridians have a right to “safe” and “secure” public schools.

We do not believe the education commissioner has the legal right to compel districts to open campuses for in-person learning without regard to the health and wellbeing of students and staff, and under the threat of lost funding. The suit seeks to invalidate his emergency order.

It is by no means clear that schools, or the whole of our state, are safe in the midst of this pandemic.

Privately determined and local safety measures, such as businesses requiring masks and individuals choosing to wear masks or simply stay home, have pushed overall positivity rates and case numbers down. The governor needs to step up and show more leadership to protect all Florida residents, especially as we face the possibility of another surge in infections when the weather cools — and as more students and employees pack into our schools.

Right now, the situation is precarious:

Districts that have opened in Florida are struggling with the coronavirus. We’re seeing cases and quarantines for students and school employees in several counties, with more reports coming in every day.

Martin County, the most populous Florida county to reopen for in-person learning in the first half of August, has been forced to quarantine nearly 300 students and several educators. From Aug. 5 to Aug. 19, the Covid positivity rate in Martin County was 21 percent for kids under 18.

Other districts that have opened for in-person instruction and faced immediate problems with cases and quarantines include Seminole, Bradford, Okeechobee, Manatee and Wakulla.

The statewide 14-day average positivity rate stands at 13.5 percent for children under 18. No Florida county had a pediatric positivity rate under 5 percent as of Aug. 19. Several counties, such as Martin, have rates over 20 percent for children.

Eight Florida children have died from Covid-19, and nearly 600 have been hospitalized since March 1.

Overall, more than 10,000 Florida residents have died of the disease.

We believe school boards should be free to ensure that their own schools are safe, whether in opening initially or in closing during a virus outbreak. State officials need to understand that there are restraints on power — Florida’s Constitution must be honored, and the people in our schools must be protected.

# # #

The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.


August 17, 2020

Press release

At the request of OCCTA, Count II of the Complaint (which seeks the safe reopening of brick-and-mortar schools in Orange County) has been stayed pending the disposition of the Florida Education Association’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the State’s Emergency Order that mandates the physical reopening of schools amid uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19. That case is scheduled to be heard later this week.

REAL FACTS!

OCPS put out “Facts For Teachers” through an August 12, 2020 “News You Can Use” message.  We want to share some real facts for teachers.

FACT – What Do Medical Experts and Scientists Say About Reopening?

Although this fact was not even included in the OCPS “Facts for Teachers” message, OCCTA believes this should be the number one consideration in making a decision on when to reopen schools. 

On July 29, 2020, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) released “

FCAAP Recommendations Regarding School Reopening

”, a white paper intended to guide Florida’s school superintendents as they prepare their school districts to reopen. They stated, “This guidance is pursuant to FCAAP’s 

recent letter

 to Governor DeSantis, outlining its position that schools should be allowed to decide how and when to open on a case-by-case basis based on COVID-19 infection rates in each school district.”

Much of what is written in the FCAAP white paper mirrors what the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association and our affiliates FEA, AFT and NEA have repeatedly stressed -  it will not be safe to return until the positivity rate is under 5% and there is a consecutive 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases.

Additionally, the academy laid out specifics on screening, social distancing, PPE and other sanitation procedures, considerations for vulnerable demographics, the role of school nurses, school sports and returning to school after a potential COVID-19 exposure.  The FCAAP recommended 6-foot social distancing guidelines, not 3-foot (or less) which OCPS leaders consider acceptable.

A contributor to this white paper is Michael Muszynski, MD, FAAP—Pediatric Infectious Diseases who sits on the OCPS School Board’s Medical Advisory Committee. At the August 12, 2020 OCPS Medical Advisory Committee meeting, Dr. Muszynski was adamant about keeping schools closed for face-to- face instruction until it was safe to reopen. He discussed the fact that the governor and president had no mask mandate which guaranteed “it [COVID-19] will percolate along.”  He also stated that it was difficult “to put children together for six hours a day to see what the hell happens." He emphasized that science parameters are real and cited the example of New Zealand that had quality contact tracing and testing programs. He said, “We are stuck deciding what children we should put at risk” and 9-19 year olds spread to each other and to adults. He said if made to choose, he would reopen for special needs students only.

What do other experts say?

  •  

    Harry Heiman

    , a clinical associate professor of health policy and behavioral sciences at Georgia State University said, “Even if children are less likely to get seriously sick, every child that I know lives in a home with an adult. The idea that you can safely reopen schools and not in fact worsen spread is not based on science. It’s based on wishful thinking.”
  • Sanjay Gupta –

    Why I am not sending my kids back to school.

    He said, “It is also important to remember that a school community is made up of more than just young students. According to one 

    recent analysis

    , nearly a quarter of teachers working in the United States school system are at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19, either because of age or pre-existing conditions. I was particularly struck by the stories of worried teachers around the country who said they were 

    writing out their wills

     in anticipation of returning to school.
  •  

    Dr. Fauci

    stated, "There may be some areas where the level of virus is so high that it would not be prudent to bring the children back to school. So you can't make one statement about bringing children back to school in this country, it depends on where you are."
  •  

    Dr. Birx stated

    , “If you have high caseload and active community spread … we are asking people to distance learn at this moment, so we can get this epidemic under control.”
  •  

    UF researchers

    said that COVID-19 is airborne up to 16 feet.
  •  

    COVID-19 cases of children increased 137% in Florida

    in last month.

FACT – What other Florida school districts are doing?

OCPS said, “Hillsborough County decided last week to have their first four weeks of instruction online. As suspected, the Florida Department of Education stated this did not comply with the Emergency Order requiring brick and mortar schools to be open in August. It has been confirmed that such failure to comply with the Emergency Order will negatively impact their funding.”

The Hillsborough School Board and District leaders took a stand to do what they believed was necessary to preserve the health and welfare of students and employees. Other school districts are not reopening in August for face-to-face instruction, including Miami and Broward. Their plans were accepted by the FLDOE and you can read all of the district plans at

this link

.

OCPS could open schools brick and mortar for special needs students and others who require individual accommodations to be provided in very strict compliance to CDC guidelines and the FCAAP guidelines. The state has mandated that VPK meet for face-to-face instruction. OCPS has an obligation to split these classes so the recommended guidelines can be followed as far as masks, PPE and social distancing. 

FACT – Protocol for COVID-19 cases

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failure to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

FACT – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The District stated, “Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided to teachers, including face shields and masks. Gloves and gowns will also be provided for certain ESE classrooms. The school board will adopt an emergency policy regarding face coverings Aug. 11. Students will be required to wear face coverings with very limited exceptions. (Manual section 1). Additionally, OCPS has established a standard protocol for protective equipment. Schools and classrooms should not deviate from this protocol by providing desk dividers or other customizations.”

OCCTA is hearing from many teachers that PPE is not being provided or that inadequate supplies have been provided. Some have no hand sanitizer, some have no disinfectant wipes, some were given only five masks.

At the August 6, 2020 bargaining session OCCTA gave input on the manual. We also asked for clarification on sixty points in the manual, including masks and PPE. The manual was created without any input from OCCTA or teachers, and apparently with no real input from medical experts. 

We specifically asked for medical grade masks for teachers, such as N95 masks, since the District announced there would be exceptions for students not having to comply with the mask order.

We are encouraged by the OCPS School Board’s Medical Advisory Committee recommendations, including that students and employees be provided three or more masks a day because they get dirty and wet from wear. They also stated that there is no medical reason for not wearing a mask and the only students who could be “exempt” would be autistic or other special needs students. Dr. Nielsen expressed if all students did not wear masks, teachers, staff and other students would be at risk. The panel members also stated those not complying or unable to keep masks on should be made to take distance learning.  OCCTA agrees.

The committee members discussed many of the mask issues that OCCTA had asked the District about and submitted in writing to the District on August 6, 2020, based on the COVID-19 Policy and Procedures Manual. We asked if teachers who were medically at-risk or had family members that were medically at-risk would have to teach face-to-face in classes where there were “medically exempt” students who did not have to wear masks to protect their own safety and health. We asked where would “mask breaks” take place, who would supervise them and if, and how, social distancing would be observed. We asked about the grade and brands of the masks being provided and how many would be provided for teachers.

OCCTA also made clear that gloves and gowns should be provided to those teachers that request them.

It is concerning that the District stated, “Additionally, OCPS has established a standard protocol for protective equipment. Schools and classrooms should not deviate from this protocol by providing desk dividers or other customizations.”  Why would the District not want teachers or administrators to equip classrooms with desk protectors as has been the norm in other Florida school districts? At the August 6, 2020 bargaining meeting OCCTA requested that desks and tables in classrooms that had face-to-face instruction be equipped with dividers/shields.  From OCCTA’s proposal:

“In accordance with CDC guidelines, the District will “install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.”

The District is also not adhering to recommended social distancing guidelines of 6-foot distancing, and admitted it will make exceptions in classrooms (even those that are small, windowless and not properly ventilated) to seat students for face-to-face instruction. At the School Board’s Medical Advisory Meeting on August 12, 2020 the superintendent stated that the language “where feasible” came from the state. This is the state that ordered schools to recklessly reopen in the middle of a pandemic with no regard to health or wellness.

By contract, you have the right to safe working conditions:

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions

K. The Board agrees to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, including the provision of safety equipment. The District shall investigate complaints of harmful indoor air quality and take measures to reasonably accommodate employees if necessary. No employee shall be disciplined for refusal to work in an unsafe or hazardous situation where there is an eminent danger to the employee’s health, safety or well-being, provided that this shall not be applicable in any circumstances where the health and safety of students otherwise clearly require employee intervention.

If you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at

orangecta@gmail.com

so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT Face-to-Face instruction

The District stated, “About one-third of our students are signed up for face-to-face instruction, currently scheduled to begin Friday, Aug. 21. Another 17% of teachers want to use their classroom to deliver LaunchEd@Home to their students. In some of these instances, those teachers may have a number of face-to-face students in their classroom.”

From OCCTA’s bargaining proposal:

“Teachers will not be required to perform both on-campus face-to-face and distance learning LaunchED@Home simultaneously. The parties will negotiate a process to determine teacher assignment of on-campus face-to-face or distance learning LaunchED@Home that allows for teacher choice where feasible; and teachers who are at increased and/or high-risk for serious complications from COVID-19, as established by the CDC, or are caring for increased and/or high-risk household members will be considered first for available distance learning LaunchED@Home positions at their worksite.” 

LAUNCHED

The District stated, “All of our options are driven by parent choice and student registrations. ESE staff members that provide services for specialized areas (Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Vision, Deaf/Hard of Hearing) will review student IEP goals with parents and determine which services can be done remotely.” 

During a regular school year if a course is full or if a teacher is not available, that course is not available for the student/s. Yet, during this crisis, the District feels compelled to meet every choice for every student, even if it means a teacher with underlying health issues will have to teach it face-to-face.

FACT –Teaching Assignments

The District stated, “While about 30% of our teachers indicated a preference for face-to-face instruction, administrators are challenged with matching teacher assignment preferences to student registrations. These efforts will continue over the coming days, and there may be opportunities for teachers to voluntarily transfer to accommodate some preferences. Keep in mind, we have agreed to first try to allocate work-from-home assignments to those teachers with approved medical accommodations or 65 or older. Individuals who cannot be accommodated are provided information regarding other options. (FAQ)”

The District gave parents a choice for the three options; they gave teachers a preference. Many OCPS teachers are parents and selected LaunchEd as the selection for their children for themselves. However, many are now being told that their “preference” for LaunchEd cannot be honored because they are needed to go into a classroom to teach LaunchEd for some face-to-face students. The District unilaterally decides whose preference is honored, whose is changed and why. OCCTA has heard from teachers who applied for and received ADA accommodations because they or a family member that they care for has health issues and are at greater risk if they contact COVID-19, being told that they must transfer to another school, resign or take leave to avoid going face-to-face.

OCCTA has learned that one principal has directed that every teacher be in the classroom whether they have students or not.

Again, if you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at

orangecta@gmail.com

so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT – Cleaning of Schools

The District stated, “Hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes will be provided for teachers. When students begin attending for face-to-face instruction, August 21, more extensive cleaning protocols will be in place. Common areas will be cleaned throughout the day. Secondary school classrooms cannot be cleaned during the brief class change periods but cleaning supplies will be available. Per contract, we cannot require teachers to clean surfaces during those breaks but voluntary cleaning by staff or students is allowed.”

OCCTA asks, “When will hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes be provided for teachers?” We are hearing from numerous teachers that they do not have these supplies. What supplies will be provided on August 21? Can we really trust that they will be? During the summer the District claimed that they would provide PPE and plexi-glass barriers for the 11-month psychologists. They were given an inferior barrier that could not be used and had to wait to work with students until the correct ones were delivered.

OCCTA asked the District to explain the cleaning procedures and how many times restrooms, classrooms will be cleaned during the day. We are waiting for a response.

OCCTA is concerned with this statement: “Secondary school classrooms cannot be cleaned during the brief class change periods but cleaning supplies will be available. Per contract, we cannot require teachers to clean surfaces during those breaks but voluntary cleaning by staff or students is allowed.”

The District is suggesting that our contract be violated because they will not provide the needed personnel to clean classrooms between classes. “Voluntary” with the District usually means “voluntold”.  Teachers have to prepare for the next class between classes. They do not have time to properly clean and sanitize.  The District could modify bell schedules to allow for more time so someone can come in and clean. Will teachers be reprimanded if they cannot clean between class periods and a student contracts COVID-19?  Please follow the contract.  If the District cannot guarantee that classrooms will be cleaned between classes, then classrooms will not be safe. The following contract language applies:

CLEANING DUTIES

Please follow the contract language, which states:

   Article VI Working Conditions

Q. An employee shall not be required to perform the following duties:

  1. Clean instructional or work areas, such as bathrooms, floors, windows, or sinks on a daily or periodic basis.

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions

K. The Board agrees to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, including the provision of safety equipment. The District shall investigate complaints of harmful indoor air quality and take measures to reasonably accommodate employees if necessary. No employee shall be disciplined for refusal to work in an unsafe or hazardous situation where there is an eminent danger to the employee’s health, safety or well-being, provided that this shall not be applicable in any circumstances where the health and safety of students otherwise clearly require employee intervention.

If you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at

orangecta@gmail.com

so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT Duty-Free Lunch

The District did not mention this issue, but OCCTA is hearing that teachers who opted for face-to-face are being told that they will eat lunch in their classrooms or be called on to supervise lunches. Teachers do not have to eat lunch in their classrooms with their students.  It poses several problems that we brought up at bargaining. First, teachers have a duty free lunch of 25 minutes. Second, if you are in a confined space with students who have removed their masks, you are at a serious risk for contracting COVID-19 if a student is infected. The exceptions cited in this contract would not apply, including field trips and an unplanned emergency. Clearly, the District has had ample time to plan for a duty-free lunch for every teacher.

ARTICLE VI Working Conditions

V. Each school shall provide:

1.Appropriate space for use as a non-student employee lounge.

2. A room or private area for exclusive use by non-students during the duty-free lunchtime.

ARTICLE XIV DUTY DAY

A. Except as otherwise provided in this Contract, the employee duty day shall be seven hours and 30 minutes including a duty-free lunch, or 37 ½ hours per week  total.

M. Employees shall be scheduled for a minimum of 25 minutes for lunch, which shall be within the scheduled lunch periods for students except on field trips on in unplanned emergencies. On student contact days, in work locations where there is no lunchroom orin job assignments which permit flexible lunch schedules, an employee may be given approximately one hour for lunch by mutual agreement with his/her administrator.  In such cases, the workday for the employee may be proportionately extended to provide for equity with other employees, without violating this Contract. On any non-student contact day, employees shall have a lunch period of one hour which may be off site.

N. An employee may leave the work site, upon receiving permission, during his /her planning time and duty-free lunch.  No reasonable request shall be denied.

If you are an OCCTA member and you believe that your working conditions are unsafe please contact OCCTA at

orangecta@gmail.com

so we can file a grievance on your behalf.

FACT – COVID-19 Testing

The district stated, “Testing cannot be mandatory for students before they return to school. The DOH has indicated they want to make free testing available for children but they must build capacity. We will encourage parents to take advantage of testing. Employees are also encouraged to take advantage of testing opportunities.”

OCCTA’s position is that the recommendations of the CDC and those outlined in the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP) released “

FCAAP Recommendations Regarding School Reopening

” in their chart “COVID-19 When a Student, Faculty or Staff Member Can Return to School” must be explicitly followed. Testing must be made mandatory and is necessary to protect the health and safety of others. If a parent refuses to test their child, then he/should be assigned to a distance program.

FACT – Impasse

The District stated, “Last week CTA declared impasse on impact bargaining matters. While this means the parties may have a hearing in front of a neutral third-party special magistrate, the district is not required to delay decisions regarding reopening of schools, face-to-face, August 21 for families who have made that selection. Many of the matters upon which CTA declared impasse conflict with FLDOE requirements (i.e., opening school) or are appropriately addressed in the COVID-19 Health and Safety Manual, management direction or board policy (i.e., face coverings).”

On August 6, 2020, OCCTA declared impasse after reaching a deadlock with the Orange County Public Schools (“OCPS”) regarding the District’s unsafe re-opening plan. The OCPS proposed plan threatens the health and lives of the over 14,000 educators represented by OCCTA, their students, their families, and the community at large.

Teachers want to return to on-site instruction more than anyone. However, we must re-open brick-and-mortar safely. In the middle of the uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, the District is forcing thousands of teachers to engage in face-to-face instruction while refusing to listen to the advice and guidance of health experts across the state and the nation. The District has rejected the implementation of all CDC recommendations proposed by the Union. Instead, the District ambiguously proposed to rely on the recommendations of local health officials and “industry guidance”—without any commitment to follow even those recommendations and without the ability to answer what it would do if those recommendations conflict with each other or with the CDC and other national health authorities.

Further, other than vaguely stating that Dr. Raul Pino, Interim Director of the FL DOH in Orange County, spoke at two Board meetings, the District is unable to confirm affirmative assurance from any health expert that it is safe to open brick-and-mortar schools on August 21 or that it is safe to ignore the guidance of the CDC.

The District has failed to meaningfully engage with stakeholders including educators, parents, and health experts. The District has failed to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of students and educators regarding the safety of the OCPS community. The District has failed to bargain in good faith. The District has failed to listen to the science. The District has failed its students and educators.

With students scheduled to return to in-person instruction in just one week, there is no time to allow the District to continue to stall at the bargaining table. The Union was left with no choice but to declare impasse to get these serious disputes resolved before it’s too late.

OCCTA and the thousands of teachers it represents implore the School Board to act with urgency to protect the lives of our students, educators and community.

FACT – Who to Contact with questions or concerns

The District stated, “Please discuss any questions or concerns with your principal or area superintendent, or use the 

Labor Relations Employee Digital Hotline.”

If you are a union member, always contact OCCTA at

orangecta@gmail.com

  with questions or concerns. 


 

OCCTA FILES A LAWSUIT AGAINST OCPS

July 30, 2020

OCCTA filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Public Schools regarding the School District’s failures to keep students, staff, and the community safe during this COVID-19 pandemic, and their refusal to be transparent and turn over public records OCCTA has asked for on behalf of educators and children regarding the safety of the OCPS community. This includes a list of schools and worksites with COVID-19 outbreaks and what is being done to sanitize those worksites and keep students, teachers and all employees safe. The community is entitled to information to make informed and fact-based decisions. 

Since the start of this pandemic, OCCTA has been fighting hard to keep our students, our educators, and the community safe. The District has not only failed to collaborate in good faith with us to work on real solutions and comprehensive plans, but it has failed to be transparent on safety-related information. Its actions and inaction put real lives at risk.

We should be working together on planning for the safe and effective re-opening of schools in Orange County. Instead, with just a few weeks to go, we are still in the dark about the District’s plans to keep students and teachers safe. Since the District leadership has shown that they will not stand up for the health and safety of this community, we have no choice but to challenge their illegal actions in court.

Every educator wants to get back to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.  That time has not arrived. We have a moral obligation to protect every student teacher and employee.

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