Judge delays Brevard school closures



BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - A court hearing that could stop plans to close three schools in Brevard County was put on hold Tuesday.

Attorneys representing Brevard public schools told the judge they weren't given enough or proper notice to prepare for Tuesday's hearing.

"It's a pretty simple matter before the court, should I grant an injunction or not?" said Judge George Maxwell of the 18th Judicial Circuit.

But there was nothing simple about the hearing to decide if a preliminary injunction would be granted to delay the closure of Clear Lake Middle and Gardendale and South Lake elementary schools

"I'm concerned about what happened today when counsel had adequate enough time to actually come forward," said plaintiff Saundra Campbell.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Campbell and others alleges the closures of the schools unfairly impacts minority communities.

An attorney defending the superintendent and school board in that suit told the judge his clients weren't properly noticed. Then the attorney representing the school district in a Brevard County lawsuit about an alleged violation of an interlocal agreement spoke. He said he wasn't given sufficient time to prepare for the hearing.

"I understand this is a matter of importance to the community, therefore I want to move as expeditiously as possible, but I'm not going to break any rules in the process," Maxwell said.

The judge granted the school district a delay.

Those fighting to keep the schools open call it a disappointment, but not a defeat.

"Today was a good day because we lived to fight another day," said Rev. Glenn Dames.

The hearing is now set for April 15 at 9 a.m.

Brevard County and the city of Titusville argue the closures violate an interlocal agreement.

Both groups are seeking injunctive relief.

Last month, the board approved $30 million in cuts and confirmed that it will close the three schools.

Among the changes, the cuts in funding will mean eliminating positions and services, cutting bus driver hours and charging athletes fees to play their sports.

District leaders said that the plan could change if they receive additional funding from the state.

In the meantime, Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner Bruce Deardoff proposed that the port's board donate $5 million to the school district over the next two years, but that decision has been delayed.

The donation would help save the schools that are set to close at the end of the year.

Fellow commissioners raised the question of whether a $5 million gift to the schools was allowed by the port's charter.

There was also discussion of a special workshop to get an independent legal opinion to determine if a gift would impact the port's bond rating and update the financials on pending construction projects.

There were also differing opinions as to whether the port should provide the funds to assist the school district.

The port authority board plans to reach out to school board members to see if they will participate in the upcoming workshop.