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Collier County teacher worried about possible return to the classroom

As students and staff start getting ready to go back into the classroom, a Southwest Florida teacher says she’s terrified to return.

Teacher Lera Brial in Collier County is a breast cancer survivor with an autoimmune disorder.

With 60% of students in Collier County Public Schools set to return to school in person, Brial says she doesn’t understand the rush to start in-person schooling and fears it’s inevitable that a case of COVID-19 will be found and spread on campuses.

“A lot of teachers are taking out life insurance, are redoing living wills,” Brial said. “I know I redid my will this summer. I don’t know that many other occupations where you have to do that.”

Brial is only in her sixties, but she’s making her final arrangements.

“I have my living will and then probably the hardest thing for me to do because I wanted to make it easy for my kids are my funeral instructions,” said Brial, who was visibly emotional and tearful. “So, yeah, it’s tough.”

Brial is a first-grade teacher at Osceola Elementary School. She told us she does not want to set foot in a school this fall because of her risk factors and COVID-19.

“I am going to be 62 next month, and that’s in the higher bracket,” Brial said. “So, yes, I have these concerns. I love to teach. I don’t want to die teaching.”

We reached out to the school district about Brial’s case and are waiting to hear back.

When we spoke to spokesman Chad Oliver recently, he described in general how the school district will allocate teachers between virtual and in-person assignments.

“The principal, the leadership at each school decides, based on their student needs and maybe also staff requests too, how to best place their staff,” Oliver explained.

Collier County Public Schools says it expects nearly 60% of students back to the classroom. The rest are expected to be taught online.

Brial wants that assignment.

“I hope I’ll be one of the teachers that they will consider to teach virtually because I’m really scared about going into the classroom,” Brial said.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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