Coronavirus

Amid coronavirus fear, children went home. But these schools make teachers come in.

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In response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, state education officials announced Tuesday afternoon that K-12 schools across Florida will remain shut until at least April 15, allowing students to transition to online learning.

Yet some teachers are still being forced to come into work, potentially putting themselves and their loved ones in harm’s way if they contract the virus and spread it, which can happen without any showing of symptoms.

Lincoln-Martí Charter Schools ordered its teachers Wednesday morning to continue reporting to work for at least the rest of this week, according to a text message obtained by the Miami Herald.

Demetrio Pérez, who represents the schools’ management company, Educational Management Associates, estimated that, on average, about 20 people are still working at each of the five Lincoln-Martí campuses per day.

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“Ours is not the only school that has required teachers to come in,” he said. “We’re all adults, and this hasn’t been an issue so far.”

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On Monday, President Donald Trump stressed during a White House press conference that gatherings should be limited to 10 people and that schools should close to limit the transmission of the respiratory disease, which can be deadly. Miami-Dade officials have followed suit, closing down businesses or limiting their hours and capacity.

As of Wednesday night, public health officials have confirmed 328 cases of COVID-19 in Florida. Of those, nearly half were registered in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

But Lincoln-Martí does not intend to allow its employees to work from home, Pérez said. Instead, the cleaning staff has ramped up efforts, he said, and the schools are asking teachers to “use common sense” and avoid groups of more than 10.

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“What we’re thinking of doing one day may have to change in a matter of hours, but for right now that’s our plan,” Pérez said.

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth-largest school district in the country, announced Friday that it would shut down all of its schools and begin remote online learning on Monday. Teachers are at home; only certain personnel are reporting to work.

Similar to traditional public schools, Pérez said Lincoln-Martí began online long-distance learning. Students from kindergarten to second grade use online tools like iReady. Third- to 12th-graders are using laptops or tablets to virtually connect with teachers every day.

In a memo issued Tuesday, state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran reinforced that idea, encouraging institutions “to operate virtually or through other non-classroom-based means to the greatest extent possible to implement distance learning.”

When asked Wednesday why exactly teachers couldn’t use their computers from home to teach the students instead of going to the schools, Perez said it was because “they may not necessarily have the capability to do it from home.”

When pressed on why the employees couldn’t take the devices home and whether the schools had asked the teachers if they had Internet connections there, Pérez hung up on a Herald reporter.

Miami Herald staff writer Colleen Wright contributed to this report.

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