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Broward County Lawmakers, School Board Set Their Legislative Priorities As Teachers Go Back To Campus Monday

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.
Emily Michot
Miami Herald
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

The Broward legislative delegation met with school board members for a workshop Wednesday — ahead of the upcoming 2021 state session. The pandemic was discussed at length, but not listed as a priority.

The meeting between school board members and state lawmakers in Broward County came the same week as the school district will end remote-work accommodations for all teachers who had them.

Accommodations expire Friday, Jan. 8. Everyone has to report back to campus Monday Jan. 11, according to the district.

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Superintendent Robert Runcie recorded a new video to release at the start of the second semester of the school year. In it he stated:

“Any such remote work assignment that is granted by the local school, will be based on the operational plans and needs of the school — and not health-related...”

The district office provided a full statement:

"Broward County Public Schools understands the challenges our teachers and staff have faced through the Covid-19 pandemic. With that consideration in mind, our District granted more than 2,000 remote work assignments to employees, which is more than any other school district in South Florida. At the time the assignments were granted, the employees were given a date by which the permission would expire, notifying they that they would need to return to work on Monday, January 11, 2021. Letters were sent on December 16 as a reminder the assignment would conclude on January 8. Any additional work assignment requests may be allowed based on the operational needs of each individual school."

Broward Teachers Union President, Anna Fusco, asked state lawmakers during the pre-session workshop for help if teachers have to go back to campuses.

"Our superintendent has made the decision to stop accommodations and have everyone go back into the schools on Monday. And now we have some of our most vulnerable, our most ill, that might not be at that 65 age that are not going to be able to get the vaccine," she said. "So I'm asking you to make it a priority for our educators."

Fusco told lawmakers the teachers still working from home are battling diseases that include cancers, heart conditions, lung problems, and some have had recent organ transplants.

New state representative and former longtime school board member, Robin Bartleman, responded to Fusco and her concerns.

"This delegation is going to send a letter to the governor and all the powers that be, saying that this whole room supports you in getting moved up to the top of the vaccination list," Bartleman said.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked earlier this week if teachers will be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines, he replied, "Not at this time."

Superintendent Runcie stated in the video that also supports adding teachers to the state's priority list for vaccination.

Vaccines do not appear on the district's official list of legislative priorities. The list, which was discussed earlier Wednesday morning, focuses on teacher salaries, testing and funding for school safety measures.

You can read the full list here.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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