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Hearing on FEA's motion to delay school reopenings continues Thursday and Friday

Posted at 5:44 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 17:44:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The fight to keep kids out of schools this fall continues in Florida.

Education lawyers say they working to keep everyone safe. They're representing the Florida Education Association to keep school doors closed until the spread of COVID-19 in the state slows.

Wednesday was the first of many hearings in a Miami court scheduled to continue throughout the rest of the week.

"Your Honor, there are some districts that have already started to report as we sit here and some that are starting next week," Mark Richards, an FEA attorney said in court.

Battling the clock, attorneys representing the FEA continue to push for a delay in school re-openings.

"Many teachers, educators, staff are making irrevocable decisions to retire," said Richards. "Decision through their FRS plan to take lesser benefits because regardless of if a school is opening Tuesday or a month from Tuesday, you have to make these decisions."

It's not just personal well-being on the teacher's minds. Many are also concerned about community spread.

"I'm terrified," said Michelle Dougherty, a Leon County teacher. "Not because I might get sick. It might be that one of my students has it, gives it to another student, and then a family member dies."

Dougherty says while she wants to go back to the classroom, but now isn't the time.

"It's absolutely ridiculous to think that we could add our kids to the mix in the numbers and not think that it'll absolutely explode," said Dougherty.

"We're looking for two weeks in declining hospitalization rates, declining deaths," said Jeremy Matlow, a Tallahassee City commissioner. "That's when we know it's safe."

Matlow and Leon County commissioner Bill Proctor are throwing their support behind the FEA.

"Why are the bigs in Florida not meeting or meeting virtually, but we want the school children to go back to brick and mortar?" Proctor said.

A Miami-Dade judge will hear arguments Thursday and Friday before making a ruling, but the battle could spill over into next week.

"The state of Florida defendants are entitled to an automatic stay," said Angel Cortinas, the attorney for Governor Ron DeSantis. "Should you deny our motion, we would then take that to the Third District Court of Appeals."

Court hearings continue at 9 a.m. both Thursday and Friday.

Commissioners Matlow and Proctor are also hosting a virtual town hall about school re-opening Thursday at 6 p.m.