By Joan Murray

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As coronavirus cases in Florida keep rising, some South Florida educators are voicing their disagreement with Governor Ron DeSantis’ decision to keep public schools open.

United Teachers of Dade Vice President Antonio White says the district needs to pay attention to the numbers.

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“We shut down when the percentage was less than 3 percent and now we are at 9 to 10 percent, yet the schools are wide open,” said White.

Marika Reyes, who is a high school biology teacher and a parent with a background in public health, thinks Miami-Dade should switch to all online learning.

“Until there is a vaccine or until restaurants, salons and other businesses are contact tracing,” said De los Reyes.

We also spoke to Broward high school teacher Christiane Gunn. She teaches from home
and worried about the post-Thanksgiving Covid numbers.

“You have people who may be at medium risk, but we have a massive increase of students in the next couple of weeks. We’ll just be a breeding ground for the spread of disease,” said Gunn.

Broward Teachers Union Anna Fusco believes all students and teachers should get a COVID test.

Florida has now exceeded 1 million COVID-19 cases, becoming only the third state to do so. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis is standing firm on his decision to keep public schools open.

Throughout the pandemic, the hardest-hit area of the state has been heavily populated Southeast Florida, with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties combining for 406,000 of the cases.

COVID-19 cases also continue to rise in schools.

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools coronavirus dashboard shows there have been 1,232 positive COVID-19 cases since schools reopened on Oct. 5; 813 students and 419 employees. In the last 30 days, there have been 823 cases; 561 students and 262 employees.

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The Broward County Public Schools coronavirus dashboard shows 743 positive COVID-19 cases since schools reopened on Oct. 9; 366 students and 377 employees. In the last 30 days, there have been 489 cases, 226 students and 263 employees.

Despite the rising number of cases in schools, Gov. DeSantis said schools will remain open while speaking at a news conference in Central Florida on Monday.

The governor said lockdowns and closures have not worked. He called closing schools, “probably the biggest health blunder in modern American history” and said he will not impose further restrictions on businesses that could lead to layoffs or financial loss. The governor also said schools will continue to offer online classes for families who chose that mode, though students who are struggling with virtual learning will be required to return to in-person instruction.

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The new order to keep schools open will provide protections for school-district funding.

Florida and other states closed schools in March as the pandemic hit, and some areas of the country have shuttered classrooms again this fall.

DeSantis said the harm from the closure of schools will “reverberate” for years and labeled people who advocate for closing schools as “today’s flat earthers.”

“All you had to do is talk to a teacher, they all said the same thing, that it was not the same, and that kids were falling behind,” DeSantis added.

The Florida Education Association teachers union expressed cautious optimism that the new order “offers our public schools a much-needed measure of reassurance for the new year.”

“Florida’s schools remain underfunded, and COVID-19 continues to create terrible disruption, but the state’s support for students on-campus and off should remain stable this spring,” a news release from the union said.

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FEA President Andrew Spar suggested the state could also suspend “high-stakes standardized testing” or that tests be made less “make or break,” so students and teachers can catch up from the coronavirus disruption.