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Judge strikes down order requiring Florida schools to reopen for in-person classes

Judge strikes down order requiring Florida schools to reopen
for in-person classes 1

A judge struck down Florida’s controversial order requiring schools to open for in-person classes this month — calling the provision “unconstitutional” as COVID-19 continues to spread in the Sunshine State.

The Monday ruling stems from two lawsuits, one from Orange County and another from the statewide teachers’ union, challenging the order issued by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

“The order is unconstitutional to the extent it arbitrarily disregards safety, denies local school boards decision making with respect to opening brick and mortar schools, and conditions funding on an approved reopening plan with a start date in August,” Judge Charles Dodson of Leon County Circuit Court wrote in the order, according to the report.

The order could also put teachers in harms’ way, as they’re “being told they must go back into classrooms under extremely unsafe conditions,” Dodson added.

The attorneys who filed the suit called the ruling “historic,” praising it for removing “handcuffs” from the local school board.

“All of our clients believed forcing schools to reopen based upon an arbitrary deadline of August 31, 2020, without proper local control, was certain to lead to devastating health consequences for our entire State,” lawyers Jacob Stuart and Billy Wieland said in a statement to the Sentinel.

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The state filed an appeal Monday afternoon, with Corcoran arguing that he and other state leaders are “100 percent confident we will win this lawsuit,” according to the report.

Corcoran said that 1.6 million students ― more than half the state’s public school enrollment — have opted for in-person classes this school year.

He called on families and teachers who want to return to brick-and-mortar classes to contact the union and “and tell them to drop this frivolous lawsuit.”

During hearings last week, about half of the state’s 67 school districts opted for in-person lessons, the paper reported.

For that reason, the ruling’s impact could be minimized if district leaders are reluctant to back away from the in-person option they offered to parents — thousands of whom selected it.

At Orange County’s coronavirus briefing, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, said “Our board has not had time to digest nor to discuss [the ruling].”

A total of 605,502 coronavirus cases and 10,580 deaths have been reported in Florida, according to the latest numbers.

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