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Despite ruling, Florida classroom openings in legal limbo

School bus parked in lot with stop sign displayed (Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a judge threw out the requirement that brick and mortar schools in Florida must be open by Aug. 31, legal advice being given to districts across the state is to move cautiously after an appeal automatically put the ruling on hold. 

However, the teachers union is going back to court to keep the order in effect.The final nine school districts are scheduled to open classrooms next Monday. 

Those districts and those already open are hearing from parents. 

“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,” said Andrea Messina, Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association.

Attorneys for the Florida Education Association have filed 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.

In his order returning opening decisions to local districts, Judge Charles Dodson found teachers, districts and the pubic faced irreparable harm.

“And we believe that judgement 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 the state’s capital city isn’t assigning lockers this year. The idea is to cut down on congestion in the hallway.

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 possibly do. We’re distancing, we’re cleaning, We’re all 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.