Despite ruling, classroom openings in legal limbo

Coronavirus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News/WFLA) – Districts across Florida are being advised to proceed with caution after an appeal was filed in response to a judge’s decision to temporarily block an order requiring brick-and-mortar schools to reopen. Florida’s largest teachers union plans on going back to court to keep the judge’s order in effect.

The legal battle over the reopening of schools comes as nine Florida districts get set to open classrooms next Monday. Those districts – and those already open – say they’re hearing from parents with concerns about what the legal battle could mean.

“Board members are hearing this morning – more than anything – they’re hearing from families that say, ‘Hey, we’ve made plans. We’re expecting to go back to school next week. Please don’t change this on us again,’” Andrea Messina, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said.

Attorneys for the Florida Education Association will be filing a motion before the original judge.

“So, what we’re asking the judge initially to do, is vacate the automatic stay,” said FEA attorney Ron Meyer.

Judge Charles Dodson’s ruling on Monday returned decisions on reopening to local districts. The judge found that teachers, districts and the public faced irreparable harm.

“And we believe that judgment will be to vacate the automatic stay while the litigation plays out and protect the children of Florida,” said Meyer.

Lifting the stay will give local districts legal cover to change their start date.

Cobb Middle School in Tallahassee isn’t assigning lockers this year with the hope to cut down on congestion in the hallway. But teachers are still nervous.

“Super overwhelmed and anxious. Thank you for asking. Really, really overwhelmed and anxious,” Cobb Middle School teacher Day Harrington said.

At Cobb and across the state, the final planning for in-person learning is moving forward as the legal wrangling continues.

“I think we have done everything we can possible do. We’re distancing, we’re cleaning, we’re all in masks. We’ve all been training all summer. I think we’ve done everything we possibly can to keep our kids safe. Of course, I’m still really, really worried about it,” said Harrington.

The legal back and forth could last well into the weeks ahead before there is clarity on the injunction.

Classrooms in three of the state’s most populous counties – Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – will remain distance learning only until the virus positivity rate subsides.

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