Judge sides with Florida teachers’ union, grants temporary injunction over reopening requirements

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FILE: In order to keep students safe if schools reopen this fall strict protocols such as regularly taking temperatures. (LM Otero/AP)(LM Otero/AP)

A Florida circuit judge is siding with the state’s largest teachers’ union over school reopening plans.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) says, “Judge Dodson has granted our motion for a temporary injunction against Commissioner Corcoran’s executive order. Districts’ hands will not be tied as we continue the fight to protect students and educators in our public schools.”

The lawsuit comes after a mandate that all schools must open by Aug. 31, and offer in-person classes five days per week.

The union argued that the order violates the state’s Constitution because it goes against  the requirement to provide “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system…”

“This is a great day for Florida public schools,” said Fredrick Ingram, the president of the Florida Education Association.

For the FEA, this ruling is a win.

“This lawsuit proves that we do not have safe and secure public schools for our children to learn, for our teachers to teach and for us to have a way forward through this pandemic,” Ingram said.

But John Peace, a social studies teacher in Lee County, doesn’t quite agree this is a victory.

“It’s too little too late at this point, and schools aren’t shutting down tomorrow,” Peace said. “Schools are still going to be in session tomorrow, so what did they really accomplish?”

Peace and his wife, Stephanie, both teach for the School District of Lee County. Because of Stephanie’s cancer diagnosis, they’ll both teach virtually next week. Their three kids will also learn from home. The family is concerned that any of them entering a school building means jeopardizing Stephanie’s health.

“There’s just so much we don’t know about this, about COVID,” Peace said.

The ruling would still require teachers to go back to school in person if the school district says so. We asked Peace what he would consider a win.

“You can’t be safe and open schools at the same time, so,” Peace said. “You gotta close schools.”

The Lee County school district said the reopening plan already approved by the Department of Education will remain unchanged.

Charlotte County Public Schools: The Charlotte County’s local government television station, CC-TV, has scheduled a Facebook Live briefing with Florida Department of Health-Charlotte Administrator Joe Pepe for 1 p.m., Tuesday on the county’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/CharlotteCountyFlorida.

Collier County Public Schools said in a statement: “CCPS respects the Court’s opinion but also recognizes the likelihood of an immediate appeal. Therefore, CCPS will move forward with its plans to safely reopen our schools and give families the choice of on-campus instruction, as well as two virtual learning options.

“CCPS will continue to work alongside the Department of Health-Collier County, listen to local medical professionals, and looks forward to welcoming students next Monday.”

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