Lawsuit filed against Pasco Co. school leaders to prevent in-person class until COVID-19 cases are down

Pasco County

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A battle about when to re-open Pasco County schools is heading to court.

A group representing teachers and support staff filed a lawsuit against the Pasco County school board and superintendent, saying a virtual start to school is vital until the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

The lawsuit accuses school board members of prioritizing the need for full-funding over the health of students and teachers.

“Lives of students and employees are at risk. This need not be as we have the technology to remedy the situation,” said Don Peace, President of United School Employees of Pasco.

“There is all kinds of information out there. All kinds of mixed signals. Everyone has gone back and forth, the CDC has changed its guidelines, the World Health Organization changed its recommendations, and now the Department of Health is silent,” Peace adding. “The prudent thing to do would be to air on the side of caution and open virtually until the numbers subside to a substantial level and everyone can be as reassured as possible that the medical situation is under control and then we can talk about returning to brick and mortar.”

Peace said their goal is full virtual school until there’s a 14-day downward trend in positive COVID-19 cases and 5% or less district-wide percentage of cases.

“We can’t even hold faculty meetings in person because it’s not safe. So why are we going back? It doesn’t make sense,” said Rachel Miller.

Miller is a high school social studies teacher who says her classes are about 30 people each. She said she’s scared to go back because she says there will be about 30 students in each of her classes and there is no way to implement social distancing.

However, Miller is sending her sophomore daughter back to brick and mortar school because she feels she has no other choice.

“If I had an option to teach from home, I would keep her home. I would not expose her to [COVID]. The reason she’s going now is becasue that’s where we’re stuck,” said Miller.

Meanwhile, other parents are happy that school is reopening.

“They’re children, they need socialization,” said Ashley Minney, a Pasco County parent of an 8-year-old and 13-year-old.

She said it’s hard to know the right decision.

“I also see how people are feeling judged, teachers are scared, it’s a mess really,” said Minney.

She said if the lawsuit went through that made school virtual for everyone, she wouldn’t be happy.

“I mean, it would bother me because I feel like we’re impacting the way we live for COVID-19 which I know is awful, a lot of people I know have suffered a lot of consequences. I had a family member who had it and he lost his job over it…I get it! But how long are we going to continue this?” Minney questioned. We need to get everything going. We need to get teachers back at work, kids back at school, we need to get back to life.”

8 On Your Side reached out to the school district about the lawsuit, they said they’re unable to comment on pending litigation and had no further comment.

Teachers report to school Aug. 17 and students start on Aug. 24.

The superintendent made an announcement tonight that there will be a pause on families being able to switch school options stating families can switch their choice on their child’s schooling option, before Aug. 20, and after Aug. 31, but there will be a pause in between that time to allow teachers and staff to get organized.

You can get more info here.

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