MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Broward County School Board has voted to start letting students back in the classroom starting Oct. 9.
The vote came during an emergency meeting is in response to a letter from state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent September 25 which informed the district that they needed to come up with a plan to get students, who want to go back to class, back in schools by Oct. 5.
The district responded to Corcoran saying they chose to follow a plan that was consistent with the one the state had already approved. It called for Pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade, ninth-grade students, and some with special to return to classrooms on October 14th. The rest would return Tuesday, October 20th.
The district also asked parents to choose either virtual or in-person schooling for the rest of the semester.
The state originally said returning students to the classroom on October 14th would be too late and the district would risk losing school funding which could be upwards of $300 million.
That didn’t sit well with the board.
“Guess what for a lot of us poor people, it won’t be the first time we had to eat peanut butter and jelly and Vienna sausage and sardines and stuff. We’ve been down that road before. It’s not a threat to us. This is ridiculous,” said board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood.
“It is irresponsible what the state has done. It’s mind-boggling, it’s sad, and it’s political,” said board member Patricia Good.
“You can not hold money over our head and think that that’s the answer because you know what, you’re going to have a hell of a fight,” said board member Laurie Rich Levinson.
During the meeting, the School Board said the state agreed to allow students to return October 9th, instead of October 5th or 14th. It’s in between the original state plan and the original local plan.
Then came the rest of the compromise plan.
Teachers will return Thursday, Oct. 8, for a planning day. Pre-K, kindergarten, first and second grades go back on Friday, Oct. 9.
Then on the 13th and 14th, third through sixth as well as ninth grade would be allowed back.
The 15th everyone else would be back on campus, if that’s what they chose.
Runcie said they had a difficult decision to make.
“The state has the ability to hold the purse strings of the district. I can tell you that, on principle, yes it makes sense for us to go and fight this but sometimes you have to lose to win. When we have significant dollars at stake that could impact our teachers, our classrooms, our students, we have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen and that they are protected,” said Runcie.
Before the meeting, the Broward Teachers Union held a news conference asking the state to back off and urged the district to stick with the original plan to return students on October 14th.
“I’m asking the Governor and Richard Corcoran to stop with the bullying tactics, be the man that the man that you say that you are, the fathers that you say that you are, the supporters of teachers that you say that you are and let Broward County, the county that is so different than any other county in the state of Florida, that has the plan, you approved it, let us follow through,” said Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco.
“Stop threatening our School Board leaders and our Superintendent that they are going to have to choose over money, over people, and over our children,” she added.
The district said there are a number of factors that play into an earlier return. Among them, do they have enough teachers willing to return or do they have to hire additional teachers, how many parents plan to send their children back to school, the availability of bus drivers, and how many additional laptops will be needed in schools. Also, getting the districts 238 schools ready for reopening in four days creates obvious challenges.