TEACHER AND PARENT CONCERNS DURING THE SURGE

January 21, 2022

The Union has received many concerns from teachers and parents who believe the schools are not safe during the pandemic.  Most are related to being paid when they contracted COVID-19 at schools, not being told of positive cases in their classes, having sick students or co-workers in schools, etc.

Please email us at orangecta@gmail.com if you have a question or need  assistance to resolve a problem.

Read some of the instructors' emailed concerns below:

Oakshire Elementary: 1-13-22

My concerns are not isolated to just my school. I am hearing the same complaints from teachers at other schools too. I just wanted to offer an eyewitness account for you in order to impress upon you the concerns I have about Mr. Scott Howat’s false and inappropriate comments to the public, and the urgency of a written agreement in the form of the MOU. I urge you to do what you can to push this matter to your fellow board members and the district officials below you.

Oakshire Elementary: 1-17-22

I teach at Oakshire Elementary. We would appreciate youth surgical masks and KN95 masks for teachers. Our custodians need more help, and our classes are overcrowded. I have the smallest first grade class with 19 students. The Florida limit is supposed to be 18 in normal times. But as stated before this is a district wide problem.

Castleview: 1-18-22

I am a teacher at OCPS and I am extremely worried about our health and safety. We have students whose entire family are positive yet they are going to school.  It is upsetting to go to work and feel unsafe at every moment.

Pineview: 1-18-22

I’m an experiencing the following issues at my school, Pinewood Elementary on 3005 N Apopka Vineland Rd. Orlando, FL 32808:

  1. No cleaning or disinfecting classrooms or bathrooms. The custodial has been absent for more than 5 weeks and nobody does the COVID cleaning protocol in the classrooms. There is only one person who take out the trash. I daily clean my students desks with Lysol wipes that I bought. I ask the school for Lysol, and they gave me dry alcohol wipes.
  2. To my understanding all school staff should wear masks. There are staff members inside the building without masks and showing cold/flu symptoms (coughing, congested). . .
  3. The masks that the school provides are damaged and they easily break.
  4. Social distancing- how can there be social distance in small groups, lining up, recess, waiting area, arrival and dismissal procedures?
  5. Today, one of my teammates is out in isolation. Will I be next? I already got sick during the holiday break. I’m taking all the precautions, but I don’t feel safe at my workspace.

Dream Lake: 1-10-22

I just wanted to let you know that we have PPE for the students, but teachers haven’t been provided with any. I asked about KN95 and clarity was requested. We have a limited custodial staff so most teachers disinfect their own tables and desk. Our bathrooms students and teachers goes weeks without soap, teachers add their own soap to the bathrooms. Our stairways haven’t been cleaned in months. Our floors aren’t typically mopped maybe once a week due to limited custodians.

MetroWest:  1-14-22

We are only given the adult diaper looking facemasks which do not fit my 2nd graders faces. Luckily a parent keeps donating child size masks every month for my students to wear. Several of my students refuse to wear masks. We are provided wipes when we ask and hand sanitizer. My trash is taken out everyday and room is vacuumed most days, but I don’t think any special cleaning is done. I clean surfaces with wipes and spray my room down with lysol that a parent donated. I feel bad to ever mention it because I know the custodians are working super hard. My class bathroom trash is taken out everyday and they spray the toilet with something but I think that’s all they do.

Thank you for continuing to speak out for us. As a teacher everyday I worry I will bring covid home to my diabetic husband. Schools do not feel clean.

MetroWest: 1-14-22

Metrowest ES got a call that we have 9 new covid cases yesterday and they are not listed on the dashboard. I can confirm that we should be getting a call today because I personally have a student in my class that came to school all day yesterday and then tested positive right after school.

Windemere High: 1-12-22

This past week during deliberations on teacher contracts and pay, we all heard CTA and many board members express their concerns about an even larger exit by year's end, of highly experienced educators, who are experts in their subjects.  We have so much on our shoulders but nobody is considering the consequences for our mental and physical well-being.  I know this is our job, but at what point is the ask too much?  In the end of the children’s book “The Giving Tree”, all that’s left is the stump.  Educators give everything, and are still asked to give more; being treated like stumps.

Whispering Oak: 1-11-22

I am writing about an issue at Whispering Oak. I do not teach there but I am a parent and teacher at another OCPS school. I do not think it is safe for 5th grade to be switching classes for Reading interventions. This exposes students to so many other students that is not necessary and during this high risk time is not worth it.

Wekiva High School: 1-11-22

I'm an Orange County School Teacher and I've spent at least $200 or more this year so far purchasing KF94 masks for my students. Our school only has cloth masks.

Also, the state is supposed to provide portable air purification systems and physical barriers to facilitate social distancing, neither of which has been made available.

They are listed on page 9 of the following document.

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Pershing School: 1-13-22

This morning we were asked if we would split a 3rd grade class. The teacher that is out has a temperature and not feeling well. She also has 3 kids out with Covid. We told our administrators that we were not comfortable with switching and they told us that “there are so many teachers out that the leadership team is having to cover classes”. We asked where people (on this leadership team) were being placed and they said that they (principal and AP) had a training and the 2 others (reading coach & CRT) on the leadership team had lunch duty and had to hold PLC’s today to go over data. These meetings were not even going to have everyone in attendance.

They knew we were uncomfortable with this situation and I feel they put our back’s against the wall on this. I am one of the Union reps at our campus and was not in the meeting this morning while this was being discussed (I had a parent conference). I also feel like that was taken advantage of. This is all just unacceptable and very upsetting.

I just wanted to bring it to CTA’s attention.

 

Jen Cousins, Parent: 1-10-22

Our schools are in need of PPE. Last week at the elementary school my children attend, my son broke his mask. He was in turn given a paper mask that was far too big for his face. We all know that rendered him susceptible to COVID exposure. I am asking you to conduct an immediate and proper inventory of what PPE supplies each school in the district has, and to immediately deliver what supplies are needed as the highly contagious omicron variant sweeps through Orange County.

We still have yet to be shown where the $850 million in ESSER funds were distributed. No school or worksite should be without PPE, custodians, without proper disinfecting and sanitization between classes, K95 and surgical masks, soap in all bathroom soap dispensers, hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.

OCPS is responsible to ensure a safe return home at the end of the school day for every child, employee and family in the district. To not be on top of PPE during the most contagious and largest outbreak of COVID-19 to date is a massive failure to our community. Our top school officials and school board members need to work harder to make sure we are all properly protected from this vicious pandemic.

Orlando Technical College Mid Florida: 1-10-22

The following areas being violated at OTC Mid Fl. Campus:

  • Schools not providing masks for students or only providing cloth masks that are too big
  • Schools not providing KN95 masks when requested
  • Schools not providing sanitizer or disinfectant wipes
  • No soap in the restrooms
  • Classrooms and common areas not being cleaned or disinfected regularly or at all
  • No disinfecting or spraying areas with mist disinfectant

Horizon Middle 1-10-22

Other concerns, teachers don’t know if they’ll get paid in the event of exposure or being diagnosed.
Also, many of OUR students were diagnosed with COVID, yet none of us got quarantined.

Citrus Elementary: 1-10-22

Elementary schools are switching students across classrooms for intervention time. We are being told at my school that this is not an option. Meanwhile, extracurricular activities have all been canceled and we’re doing all of our meetings virtual. So why would we be mixing classes?

Lake Nona High: 1-7-22

Good morning. I’ve read with interest news from the District, CTA, FDOE, CDC, USDOE, etc. news about the surge in Covid cases in Orange County and across the nation. I’ve also reviewed our local dashboard. It seems there may be a pattern of schools, particularly in the South, and in our own county, under-reporting cases.

Do we have any explanation from the District regarding the disparity of numbers of overall cases in our county? For example, my school currently has a total of 242 cases on record for the year, with the majority being recorded this week. Other high schools have fewer than 60 cases on record for the year, with hardly any surge in cases reported thus far in the new calendar year. Do we have any reason to believe that some schools are under-reporting cases, or doing less that their due diligence to identify and record cases?

Additionally, the District in the past has defied the Governor’s mask mandate ban for students. It seems they are now saying they “can’t break the law.” Have they decided that the health and well-being of students and staff isn’t worth fighting for, or simply grown tired of the fight? Have we heard anything new or different from the District about this? Thanks very much for any insight.

Laureatte Park: 1-7-22

When required masks went into place on Monday, I asked if we had any of the disposable paper masks and was told by the secretary, “No. they don’t provide those to us.” The only option available were the ill fitting white and black fabric/cloth masks. Is this accurate? OCPS no longer provides the white disposable masks to employees and students? I went ahead and purchased my own for the meantime.

Gotha Middle School 1-6-22

I'm a middle school teacher in OCPS and Union member, and I have a big concern about how the District is handling positive tests and quarantine instructions.

I tested positive using a home test two days ago (Tuesday 1/4). I've had symptoms since last week, 12/27/2021, that continue to this day. I'm following the CDC guidelines to quarantine for 5 days following a positive test, and masking after the 5 days assuming symptoms are gone and a negative test has been received.

Because my test wasn't an official lab test, and my symptoms started on that earlier date, the Task Force sent an email to my admin and myself stating that I was cleared to return back on 1/2/2022 - a full two days before I would ultimately test positive and fully aware of my at-home positive test. I've been out all week so far with symptoms, although I am slowly improving. I am also fully vaxxed and boosted. The fact that I got that return date retroactively aside, if I had hypothetically gone back on Tuesday this week, I would've endangered my entire campus and my students/their families.

I can't be the only OCPS staff member that got my positive test from a home test. I have since gotten a PCR and am awaiting those results in hopes of getting my sick days covered, but I feel incredibly uncomfortable with the fact that the District actively encouraged me to return to school despite being sick and testing positive. I also don't think that members of the community (especially families) would feel comfortable knowing that the District Covid Task Force has been openly telling teachers and staff that they can return despite testing positive. It's already concerning enough that positive home tests don't require quarantining and contact tracing for students and that we could have actively positive students in our classes with no consequence, but that's another concern entirely.

I wanted to reach out and see if the Union had any guidance on this. I like my principal and trust her, but she did send me an email in response to the Task Force return date asking if I planned on returning, but I reminded her that I actively had COVID-19 and that returning would be irresponsible and unsafe.

Thank you so much in advance for your help!