School report card: This week, Zoom outages disrupted remote learning and COVID-19 cases among children soared in Florida

Elise Solé
·6 min read
The Florida Education Association scored a big victory on Aug. 24, 2020 when a judge declared a state order to open schools during the coronavirus pandemic unconstitutional. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Florida Education Association scored a big victory on Aug. 24, 2020 when a judge declared a state order to open schools during the coronavirus pandemic unconstitutional. (Photo: Getty Images)

Students are headed back to class amid the coronavirus pandemic, and to keep you posted on what’s unfolding throughout U.S. schools — K-12 as well as colleges — Yahoo Life is running a weekly wrap-up featuring news bites, interviews and updates on the ever-unfolding situation.

Florida teachers achieved a legal victory while child COVID-19 cases soared in the state.

The Florida Education Association celebrated this week when a Tallahassee judge agreed that a state order for schools to reopen with in-person classes was unconstitutional. The union filed the lawsuit in July against the governor, the state commissioner of education and the state board of education, claiming that opening schools during the pandemic violated a constitutional mandate to keeping them safe and secure. The lawsuit was in response to the order issued by the Florida Department of Education in July that stated all schools in the state must open for in-person instruction come fall.

“Tragically, Florida, is now an international epicenter of the lethal and unforgiving novel coronavirus,” read the suit. “The virus has no boundaries — including impacting our state’s public schools, a centerpiece of our society and democracy.” It also said that the emergency order, which threatens to pull state funding if schools don’t comply, “pits students and safety against vitally needed funds for schools.”

As of Friday, Florida had 615,806 positive cases and 10,868 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Health. An Aug. 26 state pediatric report showed that 48,928 people under the age of 18 were infected with COVID-19 — an increase from an Aug. 9 report for the same age group that showed 39,735 people were infected with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, DeSantis’s press secretary Cody McCloud told the Washington Post, “We intend to appeal this ruling and are confident in our position and in the authority of the commissioner and the governor to do what is best for our students.”

However, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers called the ruling “a remarkable victory” in a news release.

As of Aug. 27, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has recorded 566 positive COVID-19 cases. (Photo: Lance King/Replay Photos via Getty Images)
As of Aug. 27, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has recorded 566 positive COVID-19 cases. (Photo: Lance King/Replay Photos via Getty Images)

The University of Alabama records 566 COVID-19 cases in five days, an “unacceptable” surge.

On Monday, Stuart R. Bell, president of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa said in a news conference that surging COVID-19 cases — 566 since school started on Aug. 19, per the university dashboard — were “unacceptable.” The state has a total of 113,723 confirmed and 8,462 probable cases, according to Friday data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The school will begin testing up to 1,000 students per day. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who was also at the news conference, warned that fall in the city is in “serious jeopardy.” He issued an executive order to close all bars and eliminate restaurant bar services (table service will remain) for two weeks. “The failure to do nothing,” he said, “will cost more lives and livelihood.”

A representative from the University of Alabama tells Yahoo Life that before cases were identified, re-entry testing for all students had a positive rate of around 1 percent. The school has distributed masks and restricted Greek house gatherings and other events. It also threatened party hosts with “heightened consequences, even for a first offense” and suspension for repeat violations.

Zoom, a video conferencing tool, experienced an Aug. 24 outage that affected distance learning at U.S. schools. (Photo: Getty Images)
Zoom, a video conferencing tool, experienced an Aug. 24 outage that affected distance learning at U.S. schools. (Photo: Getty Images)

School classes were disrupted by Zoom outages.

On Monday morning, schools across the country that rely on Zoom video conferencing to conduct virtual classes experienced a partial outage, which, according to the New York Times, lasted almost four hours. Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia, Edwardsville School District #7 in Illinois and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina were among schools that reported the issue on social media.

Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan apologized on Twitter: “I’m personally very sorry & we will all do our best to prevent this from happening in the future.” A representative for Zoom tells Yahoo Life, “We have resolved an issue that caused some users to be unable to start and join Zoom Meetings and Webinars or manage aspects of their account on the Zoom website. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience.”

Related: Zoom outage impacts distance learning

Maryland schools were given the green light to open.

With a statewide COVID-19 positivity rate of 3.3 percent, a decline of more than 87 percent since peaking in April, Maryland schools can now reopen, Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday. “Every single county school system in the state of Maryland is now fully authorized to begin safely reopening,” Hogan said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a 5 percent, or below, COVID-19 positivity rate for two weeks straight before schools should reopen.

The governor said it was “simply unacceptable” that local school boards “have not even attempted to develop any safe reopening plans which would bring any kids back to any form of in-person instruction” and called for flexible hybrid-based learning plans. Hogan cannot alone order schools to open — according to the Maryland Department of Education, that decision rests with the state superintendent along with the governor, the state board of education, the state Department of Health and other groups.

However, Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association and a Baltimore County elementary school teacher, responded, saying the governor and state superintendent Karen Salmon were “throwing school communities under the bus.” She added: “In the continued absence of adequate state and federal funds to help schools open safely — to include measures such as rapid testing, certified ventilation systems and needed PPE — this is a recipe for chaos, confusion, distrust and deepening the inequities that too many of our students face.”

In July, the organization, along with the Maryland PTA and the Baltimore Teachers Union, sent a letter to the governor and Salmon calling for virtual learning for at least the first semester of the new school year.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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