Appellate court upholds Florida’s school reopening order

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Florida appellate court has sided with the state in the lawsuit aimed at overturning the requirement for schools to reopen in-class learning.

The Florida Education Association attempted to block the Department of Education’s reopening order, which required schools to provide in-class learning or risk receive less funding.

“It wasn’t about closing schools, keeping schools closed," FEA President Andrew Spar said. “It was about local control.”

The appellate court not only said the teachers union had no standing to bring the suit but also rejected its arguments against the state’s order. It said school districts have the final say on how and when to reopen.

“School districts could have chosen not to do it, that is correct. And they would have had their funding adjusted the way it would be adjusted under any other normal year if they didn’t offer brick-and-mortar classrooms,” said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association.

The ruling comes as a new study out of Brown University has suggested schools aren’t the super spreaders many had feared. The study looking at more than 1,200 schools across the country found infection rates among students and staff are well below 1 percent.

School boards are taking the study with a grain of salt.

“I can find studies that will tell you both sides, but being safe and being cautious and being careful and monitoring the situation, there’s no substitute for those things,” said Messina.

And the union intends to push forward with its lawsuit.

“We believe the appellate court got it wrong, but we still believe the commissioner believes he can overstep his authority as an appointed bureaucrat and override locally elected school boards, elected by parents and community leaders. Let’s not forget that,” said Spar. “As a parent myself, I want my child to be safe and I want to know that they’re safe when they go to school.”

The union said it will ask for a hearing before the full appellate court, but it’s likely the case will ultimately be decided by the State Supreme Court.

According to the latest numbers provided by the state, no K-12 school has reported more than 50 cases.