Florida schools roundup: Displaced students, lunch segregation and more

Displaced students: More than 2,500 Puerto Rican students have enrolled in schools in Orange and Osceola counties since Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, and many more are expected. School officials are lobbying state lawmakers for more money and waivers from class-size rules and testing requirements, especially at the high school level. The state has yet to respond to the request. State laws don’t provide extra money unless a district’s enrollment is 5 percent or more than expected. Orange and Osceola schools aren’t likely to hit that benchmark, but say they still need financial help. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Osceola News-Gazette. A displaced teacher is teaching displaced students at Lake Nona Middle School in Orlando. Fewer than 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s schools have reopened since Hurricane Maria swept through. CBS News. Hillsborough County has enrolled 326 students from islands devastated by hurricanes this year, and they’re spread all around the county. Gradebook.

Segregation at lunch: Students at Hudson High School in Pasco County are being segregated at lunch based on grades and attendance. Those who have a 2.0 or better grade point average with fewer than four absences are issued an ID and wristband, and receive special perks like eating lunch outside the cafeteria. School officials say the program is an incentive to get students on-track, but some parents say it’s unnecessarily creating division among students. WTVT.

Bullet-resistant backpack: Florida Christian School, a private school in Olympia Heights, is offering parents the opportunity to buy a $120 bullet-resistant backpack insert. The insert is made by Applied Fiber Concepts. In active shooter drills, students are taught to wear their backpacks on their chests, and the insert could help stop a bullet from a handgun. “We want to protect our students’ center mass,” says George Gulla, the school’s head of security. Miami Herald.

New gifted, charter schools: A new magnet school for gifted students in grades 2-5 opens next August at the old Fern Creek Elementary School in Orlando. It’s the first gifted-only school in central Florida. There are 434 openings, and a lottery will be used if more students than that apply. “I’m really excited,” says school board member Bill Sublette. “We believe there is probably going to be a waiting list for the school, and we think it’s something that’s long been desired and wanted by the families of Orange County.” Orlando Sentinel. The charter school company Academica is proposing to open a K-8 charter school next fall in the Broward County city of Parkland. The school would be a Somerset Academy, which has more than 20 schools in Florida. Parkland Talk.

Charters and teacher pay: Some experts say charter schools are not using one real advantage they have over traditional public schools – teacher pay. Because their teachers are usually not unionized, charters can negotiate salaries individually and pay a teacher what she or he deserves instead of what a union contract calls for. “That’s one of the few real advantages you have,” attorney Daniel Woodring recently told a group of charter school leaders. “Make sure you use that.” redefinED.

Kids Count Q&A: Florida Kids Count director Norin Dollard talks about the recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation showing that minority children in Florida are disproportionately affected by poverty. WMFE.

Candidates on education: Five candidates for governor talk about their positions on education issues and more. Associated Press.

School property: The Volusia County School Board will decide this week whether to sell a property once envisioned as a home for a middle school. Superintendent Tom Russell is recommending the sale of 60-plus acres in Edgewater to a developer who intends to build 200 homes. The proposed deal is for $2.4 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

New uses for old schools: Two Tampa Bay developers are finding new uses for old schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Concussion discrepancies: The system for reporting football-related concussions statewide is inaccurate and inconsistent, according to a review of the data. For example, the Duval County School District says there were 39 football-related concussions in 2016, but data from the Florida High School Athletic Association shows 257. An FHSAA representative acknowledges that the data “appears to be inaccurate.” WJAX.

Employees arrested: A 29-year-old Earl J. Lennard High School English teacher is arrested and accused of having sex last week with a 17-year-old student. Caroline Lawson faces two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, which is punishable with up to 15 years in prison. WTVT. WFTS. Tampa Bay Times. Devontre’a Lamott Lashown Tyler, a 23-year-old DeSoto County High School football coach, is arrested and accused of battering a student at practice last week. WFLA.

School bus driver attacked: A man is arrested after speeding past a Taylor County school bus with 49 students aboard, stopping abruptly in front of it to cause an accident, then physically attacking the 66-year-old bus driver. Joseph Taylor, 40, faces charges of DUI, battery on a person over 65, assault on a school district employee and child endangerment. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: The Hillsborough County School District is in serious trouble, with its finances and leadership in turmoil. It shouldn’t expect to see another dime from taxpayers until it right-sizes the budget, crafts a better strategy for educating a diverse, urban community and begins to bring more competent and mature leadership to the elected School Board. Tampa Bay Times. Charter schools do have a place in the educational landscape. But the arguments about how much taxpayer money they receive, how they spend it, how much accountability they face and what makes them different from traditional schools and worthy of that money is hardly “irrelevant and fake news.” Brad Rogers, Ocala Star-Banner. Many students come to a charter school like KIPP Jacksonville with real trauma in their lives. Lane Wright, the Capitolist. A growing body of research shows such character strengths are as influential as IQ in determining life outcomes not only in school, but also in the workplace, and in areas such as health and criminality. Kimberly Krupa, Pensacola News Journal.

Student enrichment: Brookside Middle School’s Kids Against Bullying Club has grown to 60 members that look for and report incidents in their Sarasota school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Bay County School District celebrates gains in math and science Advanced Placement courses, and the number of students taking and passing AP tests. Panama City News Herald. Lake County students are among the winners in the Florida Association for Media in Education Jim Harbin Student Film Festival. Daily Commercial.

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