Head of Florida teachers union: 'We are putting our kids in harm's way' when reopening

"It is not about stopping schools from opening. It is about reopening schools safely," Fedrick Ingram said.
/ Source: TODAY
By Drew Weisholtz

Fedrick Ingram, the president of the Florida Education Association, says the state’s mandate that kids return to school represents “mismanagement at its highest level.”

Ingram appeared on the 3rd hour of TODAY on Friday to discuss the lawsuit his union filed last month challenging the statewide order to reopen schools and send students back to the classroom amidst the coronavirus pandemic, part of a debate that has engulfed parents nationwide about what to do when it comes to educating their children this school year.

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“What needs to be in place is what the CDC first started their conversation with: a 14-day decline and a less than five percent positivity rate, so that we can control the viral spread and community spread,” Ingram said. “We’re putting our kids in harm’s way. In Florida, this is mismanagement at its highest level. It’s shameful behavior from a governor who has blinders on.”

Ingram noted that 15 counties with schools are expected to open their doors on Monday. He estimated that will affect about 60,000 students and more than 150 schools across the state, while saying nine of those counties have a 20 percent positivity rate for children under 18.

While online models for schooling have been developed, Ingram says they don’t help because in-person options are mandated as part of any plan.

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“With this community spread, with us being the epicenter of what’s happening with this coronavirus, listen, we need to think twice about that,” he said. “And that’s what this case is about. It is not about stopping schools from opening. It is about reopening schools safely.”

Ingram, who said 15 school districts are scheduled to open next week — including 11 on Monday — said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has attempted to delay the case by transferring it to Tallahassee, Florida.

“Shame on this governor and his commissioner of education who know better," he said, referring to DeSantis and Richard Corcoran. "And they know that we can do better. Untie your hands from the politics and let’s talk about grace and compassion and things that make sense scientifically, things that make sense in the public health specter of trying to reopen our schools.”

NBC News reached to Governor DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Corcoran for comment, but they did not respond.

“We’re telling people to do what’s best for you,” Ingram said when asked about whether all the support staff in schools will show up when they do open.

Ingram also reiterated what he says are problems related to not having a plan, not just in his state, but around the nation. He said there is no strategy when it comes to PPE, hand sanitizing stations, installation of plexiglass, one-way hallways, smaller class sizes, bringing in more teachers or boarding procedures on buses.

“It is a shame, the United States, that 50 million children across this country are going back into these perilous situations from a virus that we cannot control,” he said.