TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – One by one, teachers lined up Thursday night, waiting their turn to address Hillsborough County school board members during public comment.
Emotions ran high. There was worry, angst and tears.
Teachers pleaded with board members to,” be cautious” and “take it slow,” when considering options on the varying school formats when students and teachers start the new year one month from today
Teachers were visibly relieved when the board voted unanimously to delay the school start date by two weeks from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24.
However, the palpable tension was far from over. One controversial question lingered.
What will the new school year look like?
One teacher broke down in tears when she spoke face to face with board members from a podium. She wiped her eyes with a deep sigh. “I don’t want to die,” she told them. “And, I don’t want any of you to either.”
Board member Karen Perez says she was listening intently with the topic at hand weighing heavily on her heart. Then, Friday morning, she saw an email waiting in her inbox.
She tells 8 On Your Side it was from Superintendent Addison Davis, and it contained alarming COVID numbers.
She shared those numbers in the following Facebook post.
Perez described the scenario of sending kids and faculty back to class in a brick and mortar format, “a recipe for disaster.”
“Teachers don’t have the training they need,” Perez told 8 On Your Side.
When board members return in two weeks for a final vote on school format, they are considering several options, including students and teachers starting school in late August from home with nine weeks of eLearning. Perez said this would allow campuses to prepare properly, including installing numerous sanitizer stations and checking air filters in buildings.
The lifelong healthcare social worker maintains that teacher and faculty training is paramount to ensure safety.
“When these teachers are speaking to us, and they’re saying this is what we need, we really, really need to listen to those that are in that classroom,” said Perez late Friday afternoon.
She says if school leaders do not take into account these numbers, the entire district will be in for a “rude awakening.”
“We need to be ready, we need teachers to have training. We need to consult with doctors who deal with every age group, from pediatrics to geriatrics since that there are multiple age groups in schools,” Perez said. “I believe we’re going to have a pandemic in a pandemic in our school system.”
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