A Florida law firm is offering free living wills to schoolteachers being ordered to return to class amid a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Gallagher & Associates in St. Petersburg said this week that the firm wanted to give teachers some legal peace of mind when they return to school in August, saying that education officials in the Sunshine State were jumping the gun with cases of the global pandemic still on the rise.
“G&A is happy to provide gratis living wills/advance directors for teachers involuntarily forced to return to the classroom,” the firm said on its Facebook page this week. “While we agree with medical experts that it is premature to reopen schools in this Tampa Bay hot zone, we want to do our part to help teaches that are forced to return.”
A living will is a legal document that sets out your personal choices about end-of-life medical treatment.
Charles Gallagher, the company’s managing partner, told WFLA-TV that he came up with the idea after reading about a teacher dying from COVID-19 after returning to school in Arizona.
“I just thought, ‘My gosh, there is this need out there and we can help, definitely want to help,’” he told the station. “It’s not physically possible, with the room they have logistically, to distance and it’s not physically possible to be apart from other teachers, other kids.”
On July 6, Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran signed an emergency order mandating that schools reopen in August, citing advice from local and state health officials, WFLA said.
“Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subjects to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health,” the order said.
But the directive has not been popular with educators in parts of the state, the outlet reported.
“We’re calling for a virtual return to school and that when we do ultimately go back we go back with 14 days of no new cases,” Pinellas County high school teacher Christy Foust told the station at a rally in that district Tuesday.
“Teachers are not blind to the fact that for some of our most vulnerable students, virtual learning is not the most equitable, but our perspective on that is we want them alive,” Foust said. “They have no chance to learn if they’re dead or in ICU.”
That’s where Gallagher is offering to step in and offer living wills for teachers taking the risk.
“I think he’ll be getting a lot of phone calls, to be honest with you,” teacher Michelle Gibson told WFLA.
“I don’t have [a will], I never really thought about it, as young as I am, that I would need, I mean, maybe I need to think about it.”