Pinellas County teachers concerned about how finances are impacting the plan to reopen schools

Coronavirus

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – Some Pinellas County teachers believe money and politics are part of the newly finalized Pinellas County School reopening plan. Pinellas County school leaders say they would never let those things come before the health and well-being of students and staff.

On Tuesday the district decided to submit their 37-page-plan to the Department of Education for the new school year. Parents have the option to sent their child to a traditional school, MyPCS Online, and Pinellas Virtual School.

Enrollment is now open and the school district said parents must submit their choice by July 27 at 5:00 pm.

The district said they have about 100,000 students and the state provides about $8,000 per student in the classroom. But if those students are learning from Pinellas Virtual Schol, the district receives about $2,600 less per head.

For example, the school district leaders said if 10,000 kids do Pinellas Virtual School, that’s $26-million the school district doesn’t get.

Teachers said they’re furious the state would threaten to cut funding during a pandemic.

“Most politics is about the money,” said middle school math teacher, Brian Coleman. “How dare them on a federal level or in Tallahassee, how dare them to threaten to fund for our schools if you don’t do what we say you’re going to do. How dare you!” he said speaking to Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Pinellas County School Board is moving forward with its plan to have students go back to school or take classes online, but many teachers are still nervous.

Coleman said he doesn’t understand why they were asked to go virtual in March when there were fewer COVID-19 cases.

A pediatrician who helped come up with the plan says it’s because in March we were less knowledgable of the virus any more fearful as a society.

“[Now] we don’t feel that children are going to increase the spread that much,” said Baycare Pediatrician Dr. Christina Canody.

On behalf of teachers who are nervous, 8 On Your Side asked school leaders if teachers would have the option to work from home this school year.

“Right now there is a process for employees to work from home, Telework, if there are health concerns. We anticipate as we get closer [to the start of school] and know more what our situation is that may be an option for some employees who have a documented medical concern,” said Associate Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, Kevin Hendrick.

The Pinellas County Department of Health Director, Dr. Ulyee Choe said he will give a full medical presentation to county commissioners Thursday morning on whether opening classrooms is the right move.

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