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Florida parents, teachers, students demand delay of school reopening as COVID cases rise

By Delilah Pierre |
July 28, 2020
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Protesters stage die-in to protest reopening of schools during covid-19 pandemic
Protesters stage die-in to protest reopening of schools during covid-19 pandemic. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tallahassee, FL - On July 25, the Tallahassee Community Action Committee along with concerned parents, teachers, students and allies marched from the Department of Education to the governor’s mansion to demand that Governor Ron Desantis, the Leon County school board and other responsible bodies keep schools closed until it is safe to return to in-person learning. Doctors, nurses and educators emphasized the urgency of the global pandemic and the need for a safe, science-based reopening strategy in the face of rising COVID-19 cases.

Aspiring teacher and FSU student Shelby Shoup stated, “Although I have seen teachers and students face really atrocious working and learning conditions, I’ve never seen something so risky and dangerous as reopening schools in the middle of a pandemic. I have loved ones, I have colleagues, I have mentors who work and study in Leon county schools and I don’t want them to die. Even a single life loss is a preventable death and we should do everything we can to prevent those.”

Shoop continued, “The call that is being put forward by school employees, and students and families across the country - for schools to open only after 14 days of no new cases reported by our districts - is the only way to go.”

Incoming high school senior Maddelena Kaji expressed her family’s devastation at the loss of her grandfather to COVID-19 and how afraid she is for younger people who don’t take the pandemic seriously, bringing in-person attendees and livestream viewers to tears as she said, “I miss my grandad and I don’t want my friends to die, too.”

Organizers held a moment of silence for Jordan Byrd, a 19-year-old faculty member working at Tallahassee Community College, who died from COVID-19. After the silence, protesters staged a die-in, lying down next to makeshift tombstones symbolizing present and past COVID-19 victims as well as faculty and students in danger of losing their lives to a hasty reopening of schools.

Parents, teachers and students are continuing to organize virtually, locally and across the state, to combat the governor’s rush to reopen. Shoup stated, “You can beat down and abuse teachers and workers only for so long before they stand up and fight back!”

Delilah Pierre (she) is an activist in Tallahassee, FL