A judge’s ruling could make it easier for more schools to choose remote learning instead of being forced to hold in-person classes. Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson ruled in favor of Florida’s largest teachers union on Monday by ruling that the state ignored the Florida Constitution by mandating that schools begin in-person instruction this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We won because we’re on the side of right, the side of right about public health and public safety and keeping people alive in this pandemic,” said Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram. Ingram, who grew up in, attended and taught in Miami-Dade County public schools, was a Francisco R. Walker Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year and is a former president of the United Teachers of Dade. The judge noted that Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran made exceptions for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to begin the school year remotely, due to high positivity rates for COVID-19, but rejected similar plans proposed by Hillsborough and Monroe counties. Gov. DeSantis and Corcoran have insisted that families need to be able to choose whether to have children return to face-to-face instruction or learn remotely. But Dodson found Corcoran’s order, threatening school districts with loss of funding for noncompliance, failed to take school safety during a pandemic into consideration. The Florida Department of Health reported Monday that nearly 560 coronavirus cases have been linked to Florida public and private schools since students and employees began reporting to classrooms two weeks ago. More than 200 elementary, middle and high school students and 342 school employees have tested positive for the virus since Aug. 10. In the 17-page order, Judge Dodson wrote: “Schools should reopen when the local decision-makers determine, upon advice of medical experts, that it is safe to do so. Our Constitution requires safe schools.” Attorneys for the state quickly appealed the decision on Tuesday. Corcoran’s mandate ordered schools to reopen in August “subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health” and executive orders issued by DeSantis. Five out of seven doctors the Hillsborough County school board consulted with said it would not be safe for schools to reopen in early August. As a result, the first day of face-to-face instruction was set for Aug. 31 to comply with the state order, the same day Miami-Dade County begins distance learning. During two days of testimony, teachers said they would retire and lose benefits or resign, rather than risk being exposed to the COVID-19. Under Dodson’s temporary injunction Monday, districts could have reopened schools later than August without risking the loss of state education funds but the state's appeal blocks the order for now.