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Hillsborough Schools superintendent travels to Tallahassee to advocate for district's reopening plan

The district is pushing back after Florida education leaders said the board "needs to follow the law."

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Hillsborough Schools continues to push for its new reopening plan to go online-only for the first four weeks, Superintendent Addison Davis traveled to Tallahassee to advocate for the district's decision.

The district on Twitter shared that Davis went to Florida's capital city to meet with the Department of Education leaders. 

"Superintendent Davis continues to advocate for the safety and health of our students and staff," the district wrote.

The trip comes a day after the district sent a statement saying it "explicitly" followed the FLDOE's emergency order, which wants districts to reopen school buildings for in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The district voted last week to do remote learning for the first month of the school year because of COVID-19 concerns. On Friday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he has "grave concerns" over the district's vote.

In a letter, Corcoran said the school board "needs to follow the law" and gave the district three options:

  1. Follow the plan previously approved by the FLDOE
  2. Submit an amended plan that follows guidelines laid out by the state
  3. Withdraw the original plan and proceed "under the existing statutory framework"

In response, Hillsborough Schools pointed to a section of the state's order that appears to give school officials some leeway on whether to reopen their buildings -- and do so safely.

District spokeswoman Tanya Arja said in a statement: "The order provides school districts the options of not opening brick and mortar 'subject to advice or orders of the Florida Department of Health, (or) local departments of health.'"

She said the board made the "informed decision" to start the school year online-only after hearing from public health experts.

"...Not one medical professional could recommend opening today," Arja said, adding, ultimately, the day-to-day decision to open or close a school "always rests locally."

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