JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The conversation of how to safely start the school year ramped up Monday night with educators -- including the school superintendent -- talked options in a town hall meeting.
The meeting comes on the same day a lawsuit was filed challenging the emergency order to reopen brick and mortar schools five days a week. The lawsuit requests state leaders to take the face-to-face format off the table.
During the NAACP town hall, Dr. Diana Greene, the Duval County school superintendent, was asked what reopening format she would support if there was no emergency order in place.
“I still probably would push for the hybrid because we have thousands of students who need brick-and-mortar,” Greene said. “I will always say that there is nothing better than a high-quality teacher engaging face-to-face with students.”
Greene said many families rely on meals provided by the district and that distance learning is not an effective option for all situations.
“Some of our families, they’re going to struggle. The families that both parents work, we need to be there for them,” Greene said.
Greene plans to present the final version of the reopening plan Thursday.
The Florida Education Association along with five teachers and parents are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and his education department over the directive to open school buildings for in-person learning.
“It shows a depraved indifference to human life that we are having this conversation in Florida right now,” said Randi Weingarten with the American Federation of Teachers.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has defended the order, saying it was made to provide families with the options they need.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Ladara Royal, a teacher in Orange County. He says he has a compromised immune system and says the options put either his job or his life in jeopardy.
“In my opinion, they have politicized an executive order by the governor and the commissioner of education without regard for the safety of teachers, administrators and students,” Royal said. “It’s irresponsible, unjust and at the least, criminal.”
The lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade circuit court on Monday alleges that the order violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public education.
“Tragically, Florida, is now an international epicenter of the lethal and unforgiving novel coronavirus,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote. “Florida students, parents, teachers, and the public deserve and are constitutionally entitled to the protections needed to assure a lawful and safe reopening.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report