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Hear the Hillsborough School Board’s take on Monday’s court decision

Tune in at 9:30 a.m., on television or the district website, for the discussion
in this image from the Hillsborough County school district's livestream video, School Board members meet Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, to revisit the district's plans for reopening schools on Aug. 24.
in this image from the Hillsborough County school district's livestream video, School Board members meet Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, to revisit the district's plans for reopening schools on Aug. 24. [ Hillsborough County Public Schools ]
Published Aug. 25, 2020|Updated Aug. 25, 2020

Update at 9:45 a.m.

In a brief discussion Tuesday morning, Superintendent Addison Davis and attorney Jim Porter suggested taking no action based on the legal ruling in Leon County.

Porter told the board that the ruling — although advantageous to local school boards — is on appeal and could wind up in the state Supreme Court. The injunction that the Florida Education Association had requested against the state education department is stayed. “What that means, in layman’s terms, it’s on hold.” The conservative course of action, he said, is to proceed according to the current opening plan and keep an eye on the lawsuit.

Davis agreed for two reasons: Parents and teachers need consistency. And there is a huge financial risk if the district keeps schools closed and then the state prevails in the appeals process. “We would be out of close to $200 million and I don’t recommend that at this time.”

The board has a business meeting at 4 p.m., televised as the morning session was, and there will probably be a discussion at that time.

* * * * * *

TAMPA — Try to keep up.

The Hillsborough County Public Schools were going to open Aug. 10. Then Aug. 24. Then four weeks of virtual school, followed by in-person school some time in September.

Then, without a vote by the School Board, the administration switched to an all-virtual “Start Smart” this week, with school doors opening to students on Aug. 31.

Now comes news that Leon County Judge Charles Dodson sided with the Florida Education Association, which rejected Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s reopening order.

So where does that leave Hillsborough, the example Dodson used in his ruling?

Board members will weigh in this morning, in a televised workshop at 9:30 a.m. They had initially planned to discuss the district’s mental health initiatives. But an email went out Monday evening, announcing the switch.

From the notice:

“The School Board Workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will take place in the board auditorium located at 901 E. Kennedy Blvd.” It will be followed by a business meeting at 4 p.m. “The School Board Workshop and board meeting will be aired on Hillsborough Schools TV, Spectrum Cable channel 635 and Frontier channel 32. The workshop will also be live on the district’s Facebook and YouTube social media platforms.”

No public comment is allowed at the workshop, nor can a vote be taken. But workshops do give board members a chance to state their views. The operative word is “consensus.” The board can vote at the 4 p.m. meeting. But that is not likely, as there is nothing on the meeting agenda about changing the school calendar.

There is also a Pinellas County School Board meeting at 10 a.m., which Jeff Solochek will cover.

Where do Hillsborough board members stand on the reopening issue?

Tamara Shamburger and Karen Perez have argued steadfastly to keep schools closed until the COVID-19 positivity rate is sufficiently low. That is already happening, according to numbers from the state.

Hillsborough County School Board member Steve Cona III, Lynn Gray and Tamara Shamburger will all continue to runoff elections in November.
Hillsborough County School Board member Steve Cona III, Lynn Gray and Tamara Shamburger will all continue to runoff elections in November. [ Times staff ]

Others have responded to medical advice and state mandates, voting in different ways on different days. And it is worth noting that Shamburger, Steve Cona III and Lynn Gray all face tough re-election contests on Nov. 3. In the Aug. 18 primary, all three incumbents came in second.

Not enough viewing options? The Tampa Bay Times will also live-tweet the discussion.

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