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Union voices concerns about students returning to Florida’s colleges

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Parents will be dropping college age students back on campuses across the state later this month.

Reopening plans call for colleges and universities to be flexible, noting that not all classes will be in person.

The union representing professors across the state last week called for distance learning only in the fall.

“We need to be safe,” said Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the United Faculty of Florida.

Now the union is angry because letters written to Gov. Ron DeSantis and education officials went unanswered.

In a news release, the union calls the lack of response “both callous and reckless!”

“The political leadership continues to say everything is good,” Ogletree said. “And everything is not good, and faculty are scared. I’m sure a lot of students are scared.”

But the Board of Governors says health and safety come first and each school has flexibility for changing situations.

Three out of four college students do want to come back to campus, while very few professors would like that.

Violetta Kalinowski will be making the trip from Fort Myers to bring her daughter Nicole to Florida State University later this month.

“I feel good about that. She’s healthy, so I don’t have any issues there,” Kalinowski said.

Maggie Lo, who’s working on her masters in social work, underscored the importance of in-person interaction.

“I think it is important to have like a real person engagement with my students, and I can have a real live conversation with my classmates,” Lo said.

According to FSU, just 36 percent of its classes will be held in person this fall.

In response to questions, the Board of Governors responded to the union Tuesday afternoon:

“Thank you for your email on August 3, 2020. As you are aware, the State Universities designed their reopening plans with the agility necessary to respond to changed conditions and enhance the resiliency of each institution. As stated in our Blueprint for Reopening Campuses, the foundational priority of each university’s plan will be the health and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, vendors, volunteers, and visitors.”

You can find a copy of the blueprint here.