In-person learning resumes for over 1,000 teachers despite pushback from Broward Teachers Union

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Hundreds of Broward County Public Schools teachers are making a campus come back on Monday but not without controversy.

BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie spoke to media about the return saying BCPS has tried to accommodate teachers and that the school district has gone above and beyond what others have done.

Several teachers in the district, however, feel otherwise.

“He pulled the rug out from under us,” said Anna Fusco, the president of the Broward Teachers Union. “I’m hurt, because I thought we had a great relationship with our superintendent.”

While most public school teachers in Broward have been in their classrooms for months, nearly 1,700 were still working from home due to health concerns.

Starting on Monday, a majority of them were required to return to their school’s classroom.

“This is not what I had envisioned: having to walk away from my class like that, but it’s such a — I apologize — it’s such a difficult choice,” said world languages teacher Alicia Blonde.

Returning to the classroom in the middle of a pandemic is not what Blonde had envisioned how her 21 years of teaching at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would come to a close.

She’s one of the 1,700 teachers working from home who might not survive COVID-19.

“I’ve struggled for many, many years with extreme high blood pressure,” Blonde said.

Citing struggling students, the district told teachers to return to the classroom on Monday.

Runcie said nearly 59,000 students in the district are struggling academically.

“We need our teachers in school because it’s having a significant impact on students who continue to be warehoused in school,” Runcie said.

The district granted remote working extensions to about 600 teachers.

“I’m on a medication that the warning label says if I catch a virus, it’s deadly,” said computer science teacher Anne Skurnick.

Skurnick, who teaches at Pines Middle School, is one of those 600 teachers.

“Not only if I catch COVID is it deadly, but my husband has a double heart condition,” she said, “so I go ahead and bring this home, that puts him at risk. We have one daughter. If both of us get sick, she’s got nobody.”

Blonde, on the other hand, did not receive an extension and called out sick Monday.

“Today, I took a day off, and I’ll do the same for tomorrow and the rest of the week,” she said.

Blonde plans to use sick time to carry her into retirement.

“So I’m being forced to either put my health in danger or to suffer the financial consequences of having to take that time,” she said.

Blonde and Skurnick have two different circumstances, but they share one idea: Teachers should’ve been a priority for the vaccine.

“If you’re expecting teachers, especially high-risk teachers to go back into the classroom, then you need to prioritize them and give them the vaccine,” Blonde said.

“The minute I can get that vaccine into my arm, I’m in school. There’s no doubt. I want to be in school, I need to be in school. I teach better with these kids when I’m in school,” Skurnick said.

Runcie said he will continue to push for vaccines for teachers.

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