JUPITER, Fla. — For Debi Franklin, teaching isn’t just her job, it’s her passion.
“I love my children, I would do anything for a child,” Franklin said.
For 34 years she’s worked for the Palm Beach County School District. She’s currently teaching at Independence Middle School in Jupiter.
“I was supposed to retire this December, but I asked the state and the district to let me continue through June,” she said.
COVID-19 made her stay more difficult.
“I have 5 underlying conditions, two are genetic,” Franklin said.
Franklin says on Wednesday she was told by the principal at the school that she could no longer teach remotely.
“I broke down crying because these children mean the world to me,” she explained. “We are told the greatest success in education is forging these relationships. Well I’ve forged these relationships with these children just like every other teacher has and it’s heartbreaking because I feel like I’m letting them down.”
The students aren’t ready to say goodbye either.
“She felt that it was the best way to get the word out as quickly as possible,” Julie Mitchell said.
After Ms. Franklin sent a goodbye note to students, 13-year-old Reese Mitchell got together with her friends to create a Change.org petition to keep Ms. Franklin at the school and teaching remotely. It’s garnered more than 800 signatures.
“I think sometimes we don’t realize how important teachers are and you know they are in middle school and they switch classes so much,” Mitchell said. “That’s the only teacher she’s had that’s been consistent.”
According to the district’s COVID-19 protocol, teachers are to work with their supervisors to determine if an alternative work assignment is available if one is not they must either report to their usual work location or take a leave of absence.
“All my students are the stars of my heart and I would really like the opportunity to not punish these children, but continue to teach them,” Franklin.