Florida schools roundup: Indoor recess, turnarounds, court challenge and more

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Indoor recess: When Florida elementary schools reopen next month, they’ll be required to offer students at least 20 minutes of recess a day. But Florida Department of Education officials say recess could be held in classrooms, since there is no requirement that the time for free play be outdoors. Districts are required to report their compliance with the law by Sept. 1. Charter schools are exempt. Associated Press. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay says giving 20 minutes of school a day for recess leaves the district with 340 minutes a day of instructional time. The state requires at least 300 minutes. Each of the county’s 32 public elementary schools will arrange its own schedule. Daily Commercial.

Turnaround schools: The Florida Board of Education has ordered three school districts to revise turnaround plans for troubled schools. These are the first to fall under the new education law, which gives districts less time to turn around schools and offers three options if they don’t: close the schools, turn them into charters or bring in an outside “partner” to help run the schools. Gadsden County will bring in help for the coming school year, then search for a charter school company to take over Gadsden High in the 2018-2019 school year. Alachua County’s plan to turn around Hawthorne Middle/High School was rejected, and district officials will have to prepare a plan using one of the three options. Hamilton County will have to choose a charter company to take over Hamilton High before next spring. redefinED.

Education challenge: How do you measure if the state has a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” as required by the state constitution? That’s what First District Court of Appeal judges seemed to be wondering during a hearing Tuesday in the case challenging Florida’s education policies. A group known as Citizens for Strong Schools brought the suit, arguing troubling racial achievement gaps show the unconstitutionality of the system. The state argues that funding levels are sufficient, that Florida students’ achievements have improved significantly in the past 20 years, and that the constitutional language was political and not a literal standard that judges can interpret. The state won the first round in state court in May 2016. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaWFSU. Associated Press. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

District spending: The Duval County School Board is asking district officials for details on how they spent $21 million more than they were budgeted to in the last fiscal year. Some of the causes are known: $3.4 million related to employees taking early retirement, $4.8 million in unbudgeted transportation costs, $1.4 million less from the state for per-student funding and $3.3 million for capital costs. Board members say they want to avoid repeating any mistakes the district may have made. Florida Times-Union. The Polk County School District is still waiting for numbers from the Florida Department of Education in order to present a proposed budget to the school board. District Chief Financial Officer Mike Perrone called the situation “unique,” with the districts typically getting the numbers by the second week in July. Lakeland Ledger.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: All seven members of the Pinellas County School Board appear receptive to joining Broward and St. Lucie counties in filing a lawsuit against the state over the recently signed education bill, H.B. 7069. A decision is expected Aug. 15. The counties maintain that the bill gives unfair advantages to charter schools, but the challenge is likely to center on the law that requires legislative bills to cover a single subject. H.B. 7069 makes changes to 69 statutes, according to Broward school officials. Gradebook. Sarasota County School Board members will discuss whether to join the lawsuit against H.B. 7069 at their Aug. 1 meeting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Alachua County School Board expresses an interest in joining the lawsuit against H.B. 7069. A vote could be taken as early as Aug. 1. Gainesville Sun.

Investigation of a principal: A Palm Beach County School District investigation reveals that the former principal of Lake Worth High School asked teachers to do math homework for his son and change some students’ grades, suspended students without reporting it to the district and charged students to attend pep rallies during school hours. George Lockhart “misused (his) position and authority” and “compromised the integrity of the district,” Superintendent Robert Avossa said. Avossa initially recommended firing him, but later changed his mind. Lockhart is now a manager in the district’s charter school office. Palm Beach Post.

English proficiency: A change in the way English proficiency tests are scored results in thousands of U.S. students being kept in English language learning classes. In Nevada, for instance, the percentage of students meeting the standards to move out of the classes has dropped from 12-14 percent most years to 2 percent this year. Florida is one of the states that belongs to the WIDA Consortium, and uses the tests to assess when students can move out of the specialized classes. Education Week.

Anti-theft measures: A Palm Beach County school committee will meet Thursday to discuss ways of cutting down on embezzlement by employees. There have been several thefts totaling more than $100,000 from three schools in the past four years. Among the options are no longer accepting cash at schools, installing security cameras, hiring three employees for better oversight, and switching to an electronic log of money received. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher training: The Pinellas County School District is using summer school to train rookie teachers on how to manage classrooms. The program, called Springboard, provides real-time coaching as well as sessions on such topics as institutional racism and restorative justice. Tampa Bay Times.

School calendar: School resumes Aug. 7 in Franklin County and Aug. 10 in 40 of the state’s 67 public school districts, according to school calendars released by the Florida Department of Education. Hamilton County has the latest start, Aug. 28. News Service of Florida.

Basketball finals: The Florida High School Athletic Association signs an extension to keep the state’s high school girls and boys basketball at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland for two more years. Lakeland Ledger. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: The concept of no homework for elementary school students has been debated for years in other parts of the country, but perhaps the time has come to implement such a policy in Manatee County – as long as it’s replaced by more reading and more outside play. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. We must do more to enhance foreign language instruction in the United States. This is necessary for our country’s continued growth and prosperity. Sosi Setian, Sun Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Verizon retailer TCC is giving away 220 backpacks full of school supplies on Sunday. The donation is part of Round Room LLC’s annual School Rocks Backpack Giveaway, which has handed out about 505,000 backpacks in the past four years. Bradenton Herald. About 80 students get positive reinforcement and learn about responsibility as they try to maintain their educational gains during a six-week North Florida Freedom Schools camp at Florida A&M University’s Developmental Research School. Tallahassee Democrat. One hundred and fifty-one Miami-Dade County students receive scholarships from the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition. Miami Herald. Free shoes will be distributed to 250 low-income children from Immokalee as part of the Guadalupe Center’s back-to-school shoes and supplies drive. Naples Daily News. Girls learn about  coding, augmented reality, video production and 3-D printing at a tech camp sponsored by the University of Florida and Alachua County Public Libraries. Gainesville Sun.