By Joan Murray

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – An arbitrator has ruled Broward schools can require teachers to return to their classrooms during the pandemic.

The district had allowed about 1,700 teachers with health conditions to teach from home since last October.

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But that ended in early January and only teachers who had their principal’s blessing could continue working remotely.

The union sued initially but then agreed to arbitration.

Broward schools superintendent Robert Runcie said in a statement the arbitrator’s ruling is “A win for our students.”

Union president Anna Fusco said she was happy with the ruling although she acknowledged many teachers may not understand the upside.

“The arbitrator said you are ordered to give over anything and everything the teacher’s union needs and to work together and make sure school plans are done with transparency and done in writing. I did have a couple of schools reach out to me through the award of the arbitration that their principals were able to accommodate more teachers,” Fusco explained.

Some parents disagreed with the arbitrator’s ruling.

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“They shouldn’t have to teach in school if they don’t want to if they are sick,” said parent Ramona Santana.

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Theresa Granado agreed. “I think it’s their choice. They might be high risk,” she said.

But grandparent Michael Scanlon said he felt it was a step forward.

His eight-year-old granddaughter Chloe has done in-person learning at a Hollywood public school since last year and he feels she has benefitted from the face-to-face process.

“For the socialization aspect,” he explained. “I think we are progressing with the pandemic. As long as everything is safe. I work at the Hard Rock and they’ve done a good job making sure everything is sanitized,” he said.

The union has also taken issue with what they call the district’s spying on teachers working remotely using social media pictures.

During the hearing, pictures were flashed on-screen to bolster their argument that if teachers were well enough to socialize they were well enough to teach in person.

“They think teachers shouldn’t be allowed to go to the grocery store
for basic necessities,” Fusco said.

Fusco promised teachers the union would work to ensure that anyone who needed
to stay at home because of health reasons would be allowed an accommodation.

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According to Fusco, only 25 percent of all students are doing face-to-face learning.