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Rep. Rene Plasencia wants more information from Orange County Public Schools about reopening plans.

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Rene Plasencia presses Orange County schools for reopening information

A letter to the superintendent charges too little information has been released.

Orlando Rep. Rene Plasencia expressed concerns that parents and teachers are being left out of Orange County Public Schools’ planning to reopen schools in the coronavirus crisis, in a letter sent Wednesday to the district’s superintendent.

Plasencia stressed that the information is critical particularly for families with exceptional student education plans who are being brought back for extended school year sessions as soon as July 13.

“As a 15 year OCPS classroom teacher and as a parent of a middle school student, I am concerned with the lack of transparency by the Orange County School District regarding how they intend (to) welcome students back for ESY [extended school year,]” Plasencia wrote in his letter Wednesday to Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.

“I have received numerous complaints by both parents and teachers who have asked the district for a plan and the district has been unable to provide an adequate one,” he continued.

Plasencia, a Republican representing a swath of eastern Orange County and northwestern Brevard County, also is planning to host a virtual town hall meeting to discuss COVID-19 and the 2020-21 school year, set for 11 a.m. next Wednesday. The event will feature, among others, Plasencia, Orange County School Board Member Angie Gallo, Orange County Teachers Union President Wendi Dormal, and Orange County PTA Vice President Chadwick Hardee.

The school board is planning a work session for 2 p.m. Tuesday on reopening schools. Plasencia complained it offers no opportunity for public comment.

He also charged that too little information has been released about the district’s plans to reopen.

“From what has been made available to me, OCPS has plans to reconvene ESE [exceptional student education] students July 13-23 with no plans, input or processes shared with parents, faculty or staff. Parents’ request for safety protocol information has been met with ‘if it becomes available it will be provided to you’. On June 30th, the district was unable to answer many questions proposed at the CTA bargaining meeting. The email sent to parents regarding ESY refers them to a website with a blank screen,” Plasencia wrote.

“As you can imagine, these obstacles to information and transparency can put both families and teachers in an uncomfortable position,” Plasencia added.

There was no immediate response from the school district to an inquiry about it from Florida Politics.

Plasencia asked for specific information about the district’s safety plan, teacher and student ratios, sanitation training and procedures, healthcare employees on campus, clinic procedures, outbreak procedures, isolation protocols in cases of exposure, social distancing, and transportation procedures.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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