In the wake of the pandemic, programs were forced to shift into the online environment in the matter of weeks. As a result, online education’s reputation has taken a hit. Now, institutions have a chance to show staff and learners what true online learning looks like, and its added value to education. As the fall semester nears, faculty finally have the time to create intentionally designed online programs rather than content copy-and-pasted from on-campus learning materials."—Source: The EvoLLLutionFlorida’s public universities switched to online-only classes and mostly shuttered their campuses in mid-March as the number of coronavirus cases around the state grew. Last month, school leaders submitted plans for reopening to the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. Those plans generally call for a variety of measures intended to limit the spread of the virus, including requiring masks indoors and reducing dormitory capacity, and a mix of online-only and in-person classes.

But union leaders sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday arguing those plans were approved weeks ago -- when the state had far fewer virus cases.

“We love face-to-face teaching and miss our students but, as much as our faculty and students fervently wish to get back to our classrooms, the steadily rising COVID-19 infections and deaths warn against it,” said the letter signed by United Faculty of Florida President Karen Morian and Jaffar Ali Shahul-Hameed.

A spokesman for DeSantis couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

Deandre Poole, an instructor at Florida Atlantic University, said he worried the decision to resume in-person classes was motivated by politics, not the best interests of students and employees.

“It is wrong for our officials to play a game of Russian roulette with our lives,” Poole said, adding “we must not open up.”

Board of Governors spokeswoman Renee Fargason said the priority of each school’s plan is “the health and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, vendors, volunteers, and visitors.”

“Universities designed their plans with the agility necessary to respond to changed conditions and enhance the resiliency of each institution,” Fargason wrote in an email.

The plans vary greatly between campuses, even within the same region. UCF, for example, plans to hold about 30% of its classes in-person this fall, though courses with more than 70 students enrolled will be taught remotely. Valencia College, however, says it will remain mostly online-only. State colleges like Valencia are overseen by the Florida Department of Education, which didn’t respond to a request for comment on the matter on Monday.