Florida Education Association Safe Schools Report: COVID-19 pushing districts to a “breaking point”

FLORIDA — The Florida Education Association is encouraging parents to take a stand against Gov. DeSantis. In its 2021-2022 Safe Schools Report, the association said Florida’s schools need help, and some districts are at a breaking point.

Some parents in St. Johns County decided to avoid that breaking point altogether.

In response to rising COVID-19 cases, and with no mask mandate, Jennifer Mulcahy has taken on the role of homeschooling for her child’s safety.

It was a last-minute decision to pull her 5-year-old daughter Avalon from in-person learning.

“When it was made clear that there wasn’t going to be any mask mandate or really anything in place to stop the spread, my husband and I decided to pull her and homeschool her here,” Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy said homeschooling was never her plan, but it’s what she and husband thought was best given the uptick in COVID-19 cases.

“He felt that it was going to be an experiment sending our child into an environment where there are basically no protocols in place to protect them,” Mulcahy said.

According to the FEA Safe Schools Report, 54 educators and nine children have died from COVID-19 since July. The report also states 141,919 Florida children under the age of 16 have tested positive for COVID-19. and there have been 31 confirmed partial or complete campus closings since the beginning of the school year.

The numbers were last updated on Sept. 3.

It’s numbers like these that kept Mulcahy from sending Avalon to her local elementary school.

“It’s your worst nightmare, and it didn’t have to be that way,” Mulcahy said.

Mulchay also said she hopes Avalon can attend first grade in person next year.

Last week, Action News Jax learned dozens of students have unenrolled since the first day of school.

The night before the first day of school, Meredeth Barrett made the decision to keep her son Grayson home.

“It was per his medical team that they said it’s best to keep him as safe as possible,” Barrett said.

Grayson has cerebral palsy and a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension, among other complications.

Barrett kept Grayson enrolled in school for several days, holding onto the hope of a mask mandate. When she realized that wasn’t going to happen, she turned to virtual school.

However, the syllabus gave her feelings of doubt.

“They’re not sure he can even keep up with the curriculum that is online,” Barrett said.

With no safe path to success in school, and no realistic path online, she is at a crossroad.

“That person-to-person, in-contact learning experience is really vital to his well-being and his development,” Barrett said.

She said by the looks of virtual school, he will have a small chance for success.

“I realized this is going to be extremely challenging,” Barrett said.

With learning and physical disabilities, Barrett said the in-person classroom setting is the best option for her son.

Right now, she believes the best option and the safest option aren’t one and the same.

“Aside from a vaccine being available or something along those lines for him, he needs to be protected,” Barrett said.

For now, she’s working with the district to find a third option for her son.

According to school officials, since Sept. 1, 59 students have been unenrolled in St. Johns Schools. However, officials did not note exactly why each student was taken out of school.

The 2021-2022 Florida Education Association Safe Schools Report stated some school districts are at a “breaking point.”

141,919 kids under the age of 16 have tested positive for COVID according to the Florida Department of Health.

The Safe Schools report states nine Florida children have died from COVID since July 2021.

It also states 54 Florida educators have died from COVID since July 2021.

Action News Jax Gretchen Kernbach is going through the full report and will have more details on CBS47/FOX30 at 6.