Teachers union revives school reopening lawsuit

Suwannee County Schools welcomed students in the building for the first day since last spring...
Suwannee County Schools welcomed students in the building for the first day since last spring on Monday.(WCTV)
Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 4:26 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Many Florida students have been back in the classroom since early August, but the legal battle over how to safely reopen schools is not yet over.

The state’s largest teachers union is reviving its effort to fight the state’s reopening mandate.

Governor Ron DeSantis has made his goal clear.

“School closures should be off the table,” said DeSantis last Tuesday.

But the Florida Education Association argues its lawsuit isn’t about closing schools.

“Opening schools in a safe way. Making sure that every child, every child in this state gets the education they deserve in the safest and securest possible way,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.

The teachers union has requested a rehearing before an appellate court, which previously upheld the state’s reopening plan.

Spar argues the court was wrong to rule districts had an option to reopen brick and mortar classrooms because they would have lost funding if they didn’t.

“If there’s a consequence that makes it impossible to operate the school system effectively then you really don’t have a choice. It’s a false pretense,” said Spar.

Right now, schools get full funding for virtual students as long as they also offer in-person learning, but that protection could go away after winter break.

“You know, once this semester ends, districts are gonna have to move every student back to in-person learning,” said Spar.

Spar hopes a revised ruling could chart a clear, safe and stable path forward, while still guaranteeing local control.

“It’s never been about reopening or closing schools. It’s been about stability, support, resources and making sure that the best decisions are being made by parents, by educators and by school board members who are elected in their community,” said Spar.

FEA hopes for a quick resolution in the case, which has now been active for more than three months.

FEA has tracked 10 school closures and 834 classroom closures or quarantines due to outbreaks since schools began reopening.

It’s also tracked more than 3,600 cases among students and staff.

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