AFSCME Florida Statement on Reopening Public Schools

Statement from AFSCME Florida President Vicki Hall on the Reopening of Public Schools

The safety of our members and the public at large is of primary importance to AFSCME Florida. As a union that represents thousands of custodians, janitors, bus drivers, food service workers, office and clerical staff, and many other workers on the frontline lines of this pandemic, we are very concerned about the Florida Department of Education’s order to reopen schools beginning next month as Florida emerges as a global epicenter of COVID-19 cases. 

As one of the last states to impose stay at home orders and one of the first to reopen, we are now paying the price for hasty decisions on public health. Florida is currently setting new records of coronavirus cases and deaths almost every day. We can not afford to make the same mistakes again that put the health and safety of our children and those that care for them at risk. 

As essential public school employees, we recognize the need for children to return to the classroom this school year but we must ensure that this is done in the safest way possible. Without a comprehensive statewide plan that includes federal resources to provide for the safety of our students and staff with funding for Personal Protective Equipment, socially distanced instruction, and all necessary safety precautions, this rush to reopen is putting lives in danger.

We urge Governor DeSantis and the Department of Education to prioritize the health and welfare of students and public school employees as we proceed with reopening schools this fall. We need a responsible plan that minimizes the threat of the virus in our schools. That plan currently does not exist. We must do better. 

AFSCME-Florida represents thousands of custodians, janitors, bus drivers, bus aides, office and clerical staff, food service workers, maintenance and landscaping workers, mechanics and other frontline staff at several K-12 school districts throughout the state of Florida, including Miami-Dade, the 4th largest school district in the United States.