FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Hundreds of Broward County Public School teachers returned to their classrooms on Monday to resume in-person learning, but many are not happy about it.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said of the 1,700 teachers who have been working from home, including people with pre-existing medical conditions, only 600 are allowed to continue working remotely.
Roxana Rivero-Taube is not one of those teachers.
She went back to her classroom at Western High School despite her high blood pressure and she’s very concerned.
“In all reality, I’m scared to death,” she said. “I’m terrified. This is a deadly disease and it’s going to keep killing,” she said.
She hasn’t been able to get vaccinated.
“If someone could say, ‘You know what, teachers, you can go to such location or whatever and get vaccinated,’ then I would feel much more comfortable going to school physically,” she said.
Rivero-Taube is one of about 1,100 Broward teachers who were told their days of “teaching from home” are over.
“Broward County Schools has gone far above and beyond what any other district has done,” said Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie at a Monday afternoon news conference.
Runcie said of the 1,700 educators who were teaching from home more than 600 were given permission to continue working remotely based on the needs of their schools. But Runcie said teachers are needed back in the school house as the District works to get underperforming students to return as well.
“Some parents and students are taking a wait and see if they’re coming back to school because they don’t want to be warehoused and sitting in an auditorium or gym,” Runcie said. “They want to make sure there’s going to be some real change. That they’re going to be in a classroom, interacting with teachers,” he said.
The Broward Teachers Union released a video that is making its way around social media.
“These dedicated at risk teachers will have to make an impossible choice, leave the profession they love or possibly get sick or even die,” the video says.
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Rivero-Taube and the union allege the District is breaking an agreement that allowed remote teaching until the end of the school year.
“All of a sudden, all accommodations are done and you have to go back to school on the 11th, that’s today,” Rivero-Taube said.
Runcie contended, “If you go read the agreement, it said that our schools are to grant remote work assignments based on the operational needs of schools. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.
For those teachers who chose not to go back to in-person teaching, they can use sick days or put in for a leave absence.
That’s what Elisa Cartagena is doing.
She has health issues and refused to go back.
“I don’t want to walk away from them or my job. I love it. But I have to do what’s best for my health,” she told CBS4 News.
Last week, the Broward Teachers Union filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent teachers from being forced to return. Even though 600 are allowed to continue working from home, the union said that does not go far enough.
The BTU blames the head of HR, Alan Strauss, for canceling their online work assignments and “double crossing their most medically vulnerable teachers.”
The District said because of that lawsuit, it cannot comment about the claims against the HR director.
Runcie said he’s working with legislators to get teachers moved up on the priority list for the vaccine. He added that a lot of teachers’ concerns would be alleviated if they were given priority status to get the vaccine.