A Florida judge on Monday blocked the state’s requirement that all brick-and-mortar public schools must offer in-class education by August 31.
In his temporary injunction, 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson said Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran “arbitrarily prioritized reopening schools statewide in August over safety, and over the advice of health experts and that all districts complied in order to avoid loss of state funding.”
The ruling was a win for teacher unions.
“This is a great day for public schools,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said at a late afternoon news conference. “Sometimes, the good guys win, and today is that day.”
The FEA sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and Corcoran in an attempt to postpone in-person learning at schools until they can open safely. The lawsuit seeks to allow local districts to make the safest decisions pertaining to reopening physical campuses without losing state funding.
The judge heard three days of arguments last week.
Fred Piccolo, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said: “We intend to appeal this ruling and are confident in our position and in the authority of the commissioner and the governor to do what is best for our students.”
Corcoran said he was “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,” he said.
DeSantis has aggressively reopened the state’s economy and wants to reopen the schools, too. But Florida has racked up startling coronavirus numbers: More than 602,000 cases and 10,397 deaths as of Monday evening, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In total cases, it trails only California, the nation’s most populous state.
Concerns and questions about the new school year
K-12 schools across the country are reacting on a day-by-day basis to new information about the coronavirus, and many systems have implemented increased measures to protect students and staff.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new outdoor learning plan for all city schools that includes not only public schools but private and charter ones as well.
“Starting today we empower our principals to determine the maximum amount they can do outdoors. It’s up to them to figure out how to use school yards and anything on school property that’s outdoors,” de Blasio said at a press conference.
A school district in Michigan canceled all classes and after-school activities for Monday – its first day of school – after “receiving a threat” on Sunday, according to an alert on the district’s website. The Leslie Public Schools District did not offer details on the nature of the threat, but said it will work with law enforcement to assess it.
A Monday outage on Zoom service that disrupted parts of the eastern US affected Atlanta public schools.
Jason Estevez, the chair of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, told CNN in a phone interview that the outage happened around 9:30 a.m. ET and the schools “adapted well.” At least the first nine weeks of Atlanta’s public-school year will be taught online.
College campuses become new hotspots
Several colleges reported high numbers of positive cases.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Covid-19 positivity rate has more than doubled since last week and is now 31.3%, according to the latest data posted on the university webpage. Last week, the positivity rate at UNC-Chapel Hill was 13.6%.
The school has reported a total number of 465 positive cases in the last week.
More than 100 students from the University of Southern California (USC) are under a 14-day quarantine due to a coronavirus outbreak among students who live in the university’s off-campus housing, USC announced in a community health advisory.
Georgia Tech is reporting 51 new cases of Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to the school’s dashboard. The majority of the cases reported was among students. The school has reported 302 cases since March.
Ohio State University issued 228 interim suspensions on Monday for students who they say have broken the university’s Covid-19 regulations around socializing, the university’s Director of Media Relations, Benjamin Johnson, confirmed to CNN.
OSU Vice President of Student Life Melissa S. Shivers said student organizations involved in unsafe gatherings could lose their university recognition and funding.
Meanwhile, local and university police at the University of Alabama will partner to monitor bars, restaurants and off-campus housing to ensure the city’s Covid-19 ordinances and university guidelines are followed, university President Stuart R. Bell said.
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“Violations to our health and safety protocols, both on and off campus, are subject to harsh disciplinary action, up to and including suspension from UA,” Bell wrote in a letter to the campus community on Sunday.
The University of Kentucky began a second phase of testing Sunday after a roughly 3% positivity rate for Covid-19 among fraternities and sororities in initial testing, which is triple the roughly 1% positivity rate for the general student population. And Central Michigan University has threatened to fine or suspend students who host large gatherings.
Penn State suspended its second fraternity this week for social distancing violations, according to a sstatement from the university.
Pi Kappa Alpha has been suspended for “hosting a large social gathering” on Saturday, that included about 70 students, the university said. The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was previously suspended from the campus following an August 18 gathering that violated school policy, the university said.
Across the US, there are 5.7 million cases of coronavirus and more than 177,000 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins database.
Is the summer surge waning?
Declines in the average number of daily Covid-19 deaths and in new cases indicate that the virus’ summer surge through the US is waning.
The 7-day average of coronavirus deaths dropped below 1,000 a day over the weekend for the first time since late July. Also, the average number of new cases dipped to about 42,600 as of Sunday, well below its peak in mid-July of around 67,000 daily cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Although the trends are in the right direction, the US remains the world leader in total cases and deaths. For comparison, the European Union is experiencing a worrying surge in coronavirus; on Sunday, all 27 countries reported a total 7-day average of 17,000 new cases per day.
Will these US declines continue? And how low will the totals go?
The answers to those questions are complicated by the planned reopening of schools, which has already led to outbreaks at universities in at least 19 states.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this month that he wanted to see cases drop below where they were in spring.
“When you look at our curve, it’s telling. And that’s the thing that bothers me. We went way up and we came down. We came down to a plateau of 20,000 cases per day. That is not a good baseline. We needed to get further down,” Fauci said on August 5.
CNN’s Elizabeth Hartfield, Amir Vera, Eric Levenson, Jamiel Lynch and Sarah Moon contributed to this report.