ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Many Orange County teachers who were teaching from the safety of their homes are now having to go back to school to teach.

What You Need To Know

  • About 15,000 Orange County students returned to a brick-and-mortar classroom this week

  • 42 percent of the district’s more than 200,000 students are now learning face-to-face

  • Some teachers who were working remotely were called back to the classroom due to the influx of students

This after thousands of OCPS students returned to the classroom this week.

“COVID-19 is not something we can play with,” said former teacher Yarina Aleman.

Aleman says she was happy to teach her second grade students at Lawton Chiles Elementary school virtually, since she and four other family members are all at high risk for complications from COVID-19.

“My husband, he has some heart, cardiac issues. I have kidney, you know, kidney issues, I have two asthmatic boys, and my girl who is kind of immunocompromised,” Aleman said.

So when administration told her Monday she had to be back in the classroom by Wednesday, she says she had to choose between her family's health and her career.

“I had to resign, I mean ... I felt that my life was destroyed,” she said.

Orange County Public Schools allowed parents to change their decision on how their child will learn for the second 9 weeks of the school year.

More than 15,000 students made the decision to return to the classroom this week.

Now 42 percent of the district’s more than 200,000 students are learning face-to-face.

“I just think it’s so hard for everybody right now,” said Freedom High School teacher Rachel Chapman.

She was also called back this week despite saying she is also at high risk for complications of COVID-19.

Chapman understands the district had to make some tough calls, but says that doesn’t take away from the danger.

“It was scary, because I am constantly concerned about the virus, how it’s going to affect me, how it’s going to affect my students, how it’s going to affect my children and my family,” Chapman said.

OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins says she didn’t want to have to force any teachers to come back.

But said there was no other choice.

“The bottom line is parent choice and enrollment drive where the dollars are … if I don’t have enough students at home doing the learning, then I can’t pay a teacher to be at home because the dollars won’t be there to support it,” Jenkins said.

But Aleman believes there could have been alternatives.

Now she has to deal with phone calls like this from former students.

“There was another student that asked me, ‘What can I do to have you back?’… and that was kind of like one of the most overwhelming parts of the situation,” Aleman said.

Luckily, Aleman was already able to find a new job and is now offering free tutoring to her former students and others who need it.

But the fate of all teachers and students come January is still up in the air.

Jenkins said her office is still waiting on direction from the state Department of Education as to whether they’ll get to continue LaunchEd@home in 2021.