HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County students will still be able to return to school in-person next week following a judge's ruling which found a state emergency order forcing brick and mortar schools to re-open unconstitutional.
Hillsborough County School Board Attorney Jim Porter explained during a workshop Tuesday morning that following the ruling, the state appealed the decision, which then issued an automatic stay of the judge’s order.
“The order was issued, an appeal was filed, and everything is still back to where it was before the order was issued,” said Porter. “It’s a very positive ruling for local governments, but as far as any action that could be taken, we’re in a holding pattern right now until the lawsuit plays itself out.”
Students will continue with eLearning for the remainder of the week, what the district is calling its "Smart Start Week." Students who want to return to school face-to-face can still do so next week.
Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis recommended to the board sticking with their plan so the district can stay within the Department of Education’s funding model. He also reminded the board of potential financial consequences in going against the order in place.
“With knowing that if the appeal is approved and it removes any of the recent injunction, then that means if we continue to pause, then we would be out of close to $200 million, and I don’t recommend that at this time,” said Davis.
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, the Executive Director with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, said she was pleased to see the judge side with the Florida Education Association. She hopes the district remembers one take away from that decision.
“What I’d like to see is I think their local control has been clearly upheld, and I want them to own that and do what is best for this community when situations arise because they will," said Baxter-Jenkins.
Kelleigh Ambs’ daughter, Elliot, will return to brick and mortar learning as a kindergartener next week. She says virtual learning with the district’s Smart Start Week has been smooth so far, and she hopes ultimately there’s a resolution on school re-openings that works for everyone.
“I just ask that every parent have grace and show grace to our teachers as well as our administration and our staff," said Ambs. "They’re trying their best for every child in unique situations. This is all a learning curve for all of us. They want to do a good job. They’re teachers at heart and love to be with the children.”