ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —  The legal battle rages on over whether to reopen brick-and-mortar schools in Florida after a judge’s order issuing a temporary injunction against the state order to reopen public schools by August 31 leaves school officials and parents whose children are enrolled in in-classroom instruction uncertain about what will happen going forward.

What You Need To Know

  • Lawyers for school districts reviewing judge's decision

  • Reversal of ruling could cost districts that don't reopen by August 31

  • Some teachers say they still don't really have a choice

  • Some parents say reversal in plan now would disrupt their lives

  • RELATED: Judge Rules for Florida Teachers Against School Reopening Order

School districts are hesitant to make any decisions about how to move forward yet because an appeal by Florida’s Department of Education would put a hold on Monday’s ruling. That means that any school district that reverses course could open themselves up to lose state funding if the state’s appeal is successful.

Orange and Seminole county school officials said they are reviewing the ruling with their legal teams, and Seminole County officials indicated that the ruling is unlikely to result in any changes because in-classroom instruction already has begun.

Osceola County School officials said the district will continue to offer the three options in place, at least until any final decision is made.

“We want to be well-advised before making an immediate reaction that might then be overturned,” Orange County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins said Monday.

In what school leaders say has felt like a game of chess, as they try to strategize the best way to reopen schools, many are waiting before they make their next move.

But teacher Matt Hazel said he feels like he’s still in checkmate.

“To an extent, my feelings about the return are irrelevant,” Hazel said.” I have a mortgage; I have bills; I have a career.  And if it’s this or not, pay my mortgage, then it is what it is.”

He also said he knows exactly what the DOE’s strategy is.

“I struggle to find any possible motivation for the actions at the state level that aren’t purely political, and driven by a desire to look good in November,” Hazel said. “That’s not what’s best for our local school districts; it’s not what’s best for our students; it’s not what’s best for our teachers.”

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran released a statement on the ruling, part of which said, “We’ve said it all along, and we will say it a million times, we are 100 percent confident we will win this lawsuit.”

Corcoran said if you’re a parent of a child enrolled in face-to-face learning, “We strongly encourage you to call the Florida Education Association and tell them to drop this frivolous lawsuit.” 

Hazel was not surprised.

“I wish I could say I expected better of him, but I don’t,” Hazel said. “That’s Richard Corcoran to a T.…Honestly I’d just let his own words speak for him right there. They’re callous; they’re heartless; they’re really disconnected from what’s actually happening in education.”

In the end, Hazel said he has faith that the law, and science, should be enough to win.

​“Control of local schools belongs with local school boards, and Floridians are entitled to safe schools,” Hazel said. “I mean, that’s the language in the constitution.”

— Emily Braun

Some Parents Want Children to Return to Class

Parents who want their children back in school say Monday’s ruling could disrupt their lives.

Orange County mother Brianne Griffis dropped off her kids Monday for their first day of face-to-face learning.

She has practiced health and safety measures with her boys, a preschooler and an 8-year-old, for weeks leading up to this day.

Her family chose in-classroom instruction in large part to help 8-year-old son Ethan, who has autism. Griffis said Ethan wasn’t able to progress during digital learning.

But the Griffises are anxious after the Monday ruling in the lawsuit the FEA filed against the Department of Education.

“We were definitely shocked reading the news article that the judge did rule in favor of the teachers,” Griffis said. 

In addition to wanting the best for Ethan, the Griffises have jobs to which they need to return.

“That would be a huge disruption not only in their education, but then also in our lifestyle, in the jobs of a healthcare worker and a first-responder,” Griffis said. 

With the exception of a wasp sting, the first day seemed to go well.

And Griffis said her family believes it can continue that way in-person.

Eric Mock