Despite judge's ruling, no changes to Hillsborough back-to-school plan -- yet
TAMPA, Fla. - Florida commissioner of education Richard Corcoran is standing by his emergency order requiring schools to reopen after a judge ruled that order unconstitutional. The state is appealing the judge's ruling.
While the case continues to move forward, the Hillsborough County School District has made at least a tentative decision on how to proceed with the school year.
School board attorney Jim Porter recommended the district keep the current plan in place as the state appeals the judge's ruling. That means the district will likely maintain the status quo, with one week of online-only learning and schools will reopen for in-person learning next week.
Porter, however, called the judge's ruling a victory.
"The judge recognizes the decision about opening schools and running of schools belongs solely and squarely within the realm of local school boards, not in Tallahassee," Porter said. "That's a big win in the idea of local government control. So that's a very positive ruling."
Monday, a Leon County judge declared Commissioner Corcoran's emergency order unconstitutional. That order mandated that all schools in Florida reopen campuses by the end of August.
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The judge ruled the executive order "arbitrarily prioritized reopening schools over safety and the advice of health experts" and the state "reduced the constitutional guarantee of a safe education to an empty promise."
But the state’s appeal puts that ruling on hold, so the Hillsborough County School Board's attorney advised the district to hold off on making any changes to the reopening plan.
"The judge recognizes the decision about opening schools and running of schools belongs solely and squarely within the realm of local school boards, not in Tallahassee," attorney Jim Porter offered. "So that's a big win in the idea of local government control. So that's a very positive ruling."
Lawyers for the Florida Education Association -- the plaintiffs in this case -- now have 15 days to respond. In all likelihood, they want to get that response in as soon as possible because schools are back in session across the state and, if any changes can be made, they'll have to happen soon.
Meanwhile, board member Tamara Shamburger indicated yesterday that the district’s initial plan -- four weeks of online-only learning -- could be back on the table. But that likely depends on how quickly this case makes it through the court system.
In a statement to FOX 13, Commissioner Corcoran said:
“We are 100% confident we will win this lawsuit. This fight has been, and will continue to be, about giving every parent, every teacher and every student a choice, regardless of what educational option they choose. If you are one of the 1.6 million students who have chosen to return to the classroom, a parent, or a classroom teacher that wanted to educate their student in person, we strongly encourage you to call the Florida Education Association and tell them to drop this frivolous lawsuit.”