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Emergency motion filed to allow districts to delay opening schools until COVID-19 cases decline

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Posted at 6:04 AM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 07:45:10-04

Attorneys for the state's largest teacher's union met with a judge via Zoom on Wednesday and asked to allow districts the option to delay the start of in-person classes.

RELATED: Fla. education commissioner requires all Florida school districts to reopen campuses in August

At the end of July, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit against the governor, the Florida's Department of Education, education commissioner Richard Corcoran and others. This came after Corcoran sent out an emergency order mandating districts to open schools and host in-person classes five days a week.

RELATED: Florida Education Association files lawsuit against state to stop reopening of in-person classes

Some districts like Broward and Miami-Dade flouted that order and remain steadfast in starting the school year remotely.

In new court documents, the FEA argues the Department of Education's requirement violates the state constitution, saying it is unreasonably dangerous to send kids back to school and could lead to "severe and irreparable human consequences."

A judge did not make a decision Wednesday, but instead, scheduled hearings for Thursday and Friday.

However, a decision may take even longer because attorneys representing Governor Ron DeSantis and the State Board of Education said Wednesday that they plan to appeal the decision to a Third District Court of Appeals.

The Hillsborough County Teacher's Union says the potential delays are unsettling with the start of school in Tampa Bay just weeks away.

If the injunction prevails, school districts statewide would get a choice: To keep school buildings closed and opt for an all-virtual curriculum…or choose a blended model.

“Forcing schools to open five days a week means you’re putting the superintendent, school board, employees and students in a terrible situation," Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins of Hillsborough County Teacher's Association argues.

Governor Ron DeSantis argues it’s important for parents to get both options.

“The evidence that schools can reopen in a safe way is overwhelming, but I understand the apprehension some parents may feel. And I believe in empowering them with a choice,” he said in a recent press conference.

Yet, teachers union leaders say that’s a death sentence especially in larger districts like Hillsborough, Pinellas and Miami-Dade.

“Schools are designed for collaboration, we cannot meet the guidelines medical experts are telling us to stay 6 feet apart. We’re just not designed that way,” Rob Kriete of the Hillsborough County Teacher's Union argued.

RELATED: Florida education commissioner calls school reopen lawsuit 'frivolous'