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Education

FEA President Fedrick Ingram Says Reopening School Campuses Now Is Too Risky

man on computer screen
WMFE
Frederick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association

The last five months “has been the most challenging thing that I’ve seen in my two decades of education and public schools,” says Ingram.

As school districts get ready to reopen campuses, the Florida Education Association says the risk to teachers and students is too high.

The teachers union is suing the state over an emergency order which says schools must provide a brick and mortar option for students. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning.

FEA president Fedrick Ingram talked to WMFE's Matthew Peddie about the challenge of teaching in the pandemic, and what he thinks a safe reopening plan looks like.

The last five months “has been the most challenging thing that I’ve seen in my two decades of education and public schools,” says Ingram.

“I’ve been a teacher, been a union officer for many years, and I have never seen anything quite like a mix of angst and fear and anger all bottled up into one that is, you know, permeating across the state. And just a a sheer amount of unknowns.”

Interview Highlights

On the risk of reopening too soon:

“What we need to do is concentrate on the virus, the science, the health, getting this under control, understanding what social distancing is understanding that people are going to, you know, have some kind of mask order or adhere to that. Because listen, if we can open our state, close our state, open restaurants, closed restaurants, and we need to think better about our public schools. We have a two pronged approach to public schools. We can’t just open our schools, we have to keep our schools open. And so that’s where we are. We don’t want to see schools shutter simply because we were haphazard in going too fast to open.”

The FEA’s lawsuit:

“We want them to take away this emergency order that mandates that all school districts have a brick and mortar option and in person teaching situation for all school districts that they take that away give all of the local control to our districts to say if you’re going to offer school and you believe that the best option is to do distance learning or virtual school, then you’re free to do that, free from penalties, free from any kind of punitive effort made by the Department of Education or the commissioner of education. The local school districts should have the final say in what’s going on.”

On teaching the school band during the pandemic:

“It’s going to be tough. And again, what I would like to have is the Commissioner of Education, the Department of Education, maybe even a federal administration under Betsy DeVos, to say, ‘here are the guidelines, here’s what you can do.’ But what we’ve gotten together to do as teachers to say, Hey, there are some ideas. We can have sectional practices, right, we can do woodwinds in the morning, we can do brass in the afternoon, we can do percussion after school, we can space out our bands, you know, six feet apart, we can teach outside, we can teach in a gymnasium.

“You know if we need to, if you have a bigger band or bigger, you know, set of circumstances. Some of the infrastructure things that we need to do, is deal with our H-VAC systems, deal with our air conditioning systems, make sure that the ventilation is right, make sure that the proper deep cleaning happens in rooms. So there are certain things that we can do maybe hire two band directors so that you can do you know two things at one time and then bring the kids together just for a performance or what have you. So there are some creative things. This is new normal. This is not business as usual. This is not the way that we’ve done it in the past, but we can still have a public education system that is meaningful to children if we want to. This is not skill. This is will.”

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