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School Ruling Arrives Late For Lake County: 'Train Has Left The Station'

Woman standing and talking at meeting
Lake County School Board
Elementary school teacher Courtney Franklin rushed over after the first day of school Monday to urge the Lake County School Board not to close in-person schools after a judge restored their authority to do so.

A Florida judge blocked a state order that forced schools to open physically in August, but his ruling came too late for the Lake County School Board.

Lake County - like its neighbors in Marion and Sumter and other Florida counties - already complied with the order, starting school on Monday or earlier.

The Lake County board previously asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to restore local control — and judge’s ruling did that, although the state is planning to appeal.

On Monday night, the board tackled the issue.

Board member Stephanie Luke said, “This train has left the station.”

“I mean, I can’t imagine the breaking newspaper tomorrow reading ‘Lake County decides to close schools at Monday night’s board meeting’ and nobody was even aware to speak about it. I think that would be tragic,” she said.

Board member Bill Mathias said that, with the authority to close, the board can pivot if it has to.

“But right now to send a message that we’re even thinking about doing something else would drive social media crazy and emails crazy, which I don’t think is necessary,” he said, “and I don’t think it helps our kids. ”

Marion County, where 70 percent of families chose in-person learning, had a good first day of school Monday, though turnout was low.

In Sumter County, Superintendent Rick Shirley described Monday’s first day as an “incredibly smooth first day.”