TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Some Florida school districts are already welcoming students back to classrooms while others prepare to do so in the next couple of weeks as attorneys for the Florida Education Association continue challenging the Florida Department of Education's school re-opening emergency order.
On Friday, Leon County Judge Charles Dodson will decide if he wants to dismiss the lawsuit against the Florida DOE, Governor Ron DeSantis, and Commissioner Richard Corcoran as teachers across the state continue calling for schools to delay reopening, including Florida A&M University Developmental Research School.
"A common cold could send me to the hospital with my sickle cell," said Thomasina Brock, a teacher at FAMU DRS. "I fear contracting COVID-19 could send me to my grave."
Brock and about a dozen other teachers at FAMU DRS held a Zoom call Thursday pleading for the school administration to delay re-opening, including a list of 45 concerns from a clear cut plan in place if there's an outbreak on campus to determining who sanitizes the school and what that looks like.
"Most of those concerns still have not been addressed," said Roscoe Hightower Jr.
Originally, FAMU DRS was slated to reopen on August 19. Teachers found out during a press conference that the date was changed to August 31.
"We still however have some concerns regarding what the infection rate will be during that time," Candi Churchill said.
An hour before the meeting, attorneys representing the FEA appealed to a Leon County Judge, asking for in-class learning to be delayed until next year.
"All of the teachers in this state are wanting to go back to school, but they're not dying to go back to school," said Ron Meyer, an attorney for FEA.
FEA's attorneys say the best decision is giving districts the authority to craft how their reopening looks.
"It's that right of choice the plaintiff teachers union and individual plaintiff's want to say no to," Meyer said.
Cierra Thomas teaches at a Title I school in Gadsden County.
"Do I feel safe going back? No, but I know that my purpose as a teacher weighs heavily on my heart," said Thomas.
She says it's scary to think about how COVID-19 could impact her school, but it's also scary to think about what may happen to her students without the classroom.
"It isn't safe for my students to just be home with idle time," Thomas said. "So them coming to school and being progressive and challenging themselves and having a role model to always be on top of them and ensure that they're doing the best that they can every day with everything."
"We have Article 9 Section 1a that says it's a paramount duty of the State of Florida to provide a safe and secure system of free public schools," said Meyer. "Then we have Article 9 Section 4b that says it's up to the school boards to operate and supervise schools."
While the FEA says the order is unconstitutional, attorneys representing the state say the FEA wants to take rights away from parents.
"To ask you to close all 4,000 schools to in-person and invalidate the choice of the parents of 1.6 million children who have asked to be able to be taught face-to-face in an atmosphere where it's undisputed that all students receive less from virtual education," said David Wells, the attorney representing Gov. DeSantis.
Attorneys for the government have asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
If the case is not dismissed the attorneys are asked to come to an agreement privately before another hearing on Aug. 19.