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Florida Education Association school reopening lawsuit case continues with Thursday hearing

Florida Education Association school re-opening lawsuit case continues after failed mediation
Posted at 5:42 AM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 07:28:18-04

LEON COUNTY, Fla. — It's been nearly a month since the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit against the state's emergency order that forces districts to physically reopen public schools five days a week. The case continued with a hearing Wednesday morning after the parties failed to reach an agreement during mediation.

Just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, the largest teachers union in the state tweeted their lawyers, and lawyers for the state couldn't compromise during a court-mandated mediation. The parties had until midnight to figure things out.

On Wednesday, attorneys for both sides debated after failing to reach an agreement in outside talks.

For hours, the state's largest teacher union, Florida Education Association, tried to make their case for an injunction in front of a Leon County judge during a Zoom hearing.

The injunction could stop in-person learning for districts who have already started the school year and could delay classes for districts who pushed back their start dates.

They claimed the reopening order is unsafe and unconstitutional by forcing districts to comply five days a week or risk losing millions.

However, attorneys for the state argued that the order is legal, flexible and an important choice for parents.

They warned that low-income and special needs students, especially, will suffer without access to in-person lessons.

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Now, the NAACP and it's Florida State conference have joined the suit with the plaintiffs. This case also has grown with plaintiffs from Orange County added. A judge consolidated their case with the FEA's.

Not only are those lawyers asking for a stop to live learning until schools can safely reopen, but they also want funding to stay intact for districts who decide it's unsafe to move forward with a traditional return to brick and mortar schools.

In July, education commissioner Richard Corcoran put out an order mandating districts list in-person learning, five days a week as an option for parents during their reopening plans.

That threw a wrench in how Hillsborough County Schools planned to move forward with the 2020-2021 school year. The school board announced the first four weeks would be virtual, and Superintendent Addison Davis had to meet with the Department of Education and revised the plan to one week of virtual learning.

Davis also revealed the decision to stick with the original four-week virtual plan could've resulted in the district going bankrupt. Hillsborough County Schools would have incurred a more than $200 million penalty.

Funding also motivated the Orange County School Board to vote 6-to-2 for a traditional return to school. According to the Orlando ABC affiliate, this went against the district's medical advisory committee recommendation. They reported Orange County's superintendent told the school board the district could get slapped with a $270 million fine.

The hearing will continue on Thursday, August 20 at 8:30 a.m.

Attorneys for the governor and Education Commissioner will have a chance to defend the order.

A ruling will come after that, and it may be quick given that this is an emergency hearing.