Amid lawsuit from teachers union over school reopenings, DeSantis asks for flexibility

DAVIE, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking for flexibility after the state’s largest teachers union filed a lawsuit against him and other state officials over an executive order requiring school campuses to reopen in the fall.

The governor, who had previously stated students should return to the classroom this fall, has since changed his tone. He is now saying families and teachers should have a choice.

“I just think they should be given as much options as possible,” he said. “If a teacher does not feel comfortable there, and they want to maybe do their jobs distanced — if that’s what’s comfortable.”

But Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran already signed an executive order requiring all school districts to open schools in August.

On Monday, that order was hit with a lawsuit filed in Miami by the Florida Education Association.

“We’re advocating for schools to start with distance learning,” said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association.

“We don’t want to make the pandemic worse. If you do this wrong, the school becomes the germ factory,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association.

Some South Florida teachers are giving the order a failing grade.

Anthony Jennings said he’ll have no other option than to retire early if he’s forced to return to teaching in person.

“I don’t look forward to leaving, but I think I have to at this point,” he said.

Stefanie Miller, a teacher at Fox Trail Elementary School in Davie, said she spent 21 days on a ventilator battling COVID-19.

“I, of course, want to go back to teaching, but it needs to be safe,” she said.

Now dealing with a lawsuit, DeSantis is trying to juggle between the needs of teachers and students, and the will of the Florida Department of Education.

“These are unique circumstances. Let’s be flexible,” he said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is also named in the lawsuit.

The lawyers who filed it said the reason he is included is because South Florida is a COVID-19 hot spot, and leaders like him should do a better job of protecting teachers and students.

Gimenez’s office said he does not comment on pending litigation.

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