Florida schools roundup: Storm impact on schools, Amendment 8 and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

School closings: Eight Florida school districts remain closed until further notice, according to state officials: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington. Most are without power, have damaged schools, or have schools that are still needed as emergency shelters or as FEMA distribution sites for food, water, or other supplies. Every school in Bay County, where the storm made landfall, is damaged. “It’s not going to be a normal school year. There’s nothing normal about where we are right now,” says Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt. “I would say every single school in Bay County has some type of damage, some more extensive than others,” says Steve Moss, vice chairman of the school board. “Some it’ll probably take weeks or months to get online. Some it will take years.” Florida Department of Education. Florida Governor’s OfficeWMBBCNNWCTV. WFSU. WTXL. Students displaced by the hurricane are being enrolled in nearby districts such as Leon, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. Tallahassee Democrat. WEAR.

Amendment 8 opinion: Amendment 8 was removed from the Nov. 6 ballot because its language was defective and did not inform voters of its true intent, according to the Florida Supreme Court opinion that was issued Monday. “That the ballot summary is unclear is best demonstrated by the proponents of the proposed revision, who each give different meaning to the language of the revision, its title, and its summary,” the majority wrote in upholding a Leon County judge’s decision. The amendment had three education subjects: changes in who could authorize charter and public schools, term limits for school board members and a requirement for civics instruction. The League of Women Voters argued that charter schools portion was not clearly defined, and the court agreed. Gradebook.

School security: All Duval County schools will be getting walk-through metal detectors, as well as more hand-held detectors. They’re part of the security upgrades in the district. WJAX. The first class of school safety specialists in Brevard County has finished 176 hours of training with the sheriff’s office, and 27 graduates will go into schools next week. Space Coast Daily. Florida Today.

Water filters for lead: Water filters are being installed in all Alachua County schools to remove lead and other potentially harmful contaminants from the water. District officials say they don’t have a problem with lead, though they acknowledge they haven’t conducted any testing. The Gainesville Utility District says its most recent tests show 0.73 parts of lead per billion, well under the 15 ppb that merits action, according to federal government guidelines. Gainesville Sun.

School enrollment: Enrollment in the Marion County School District has declined slightly this year, according to the count conducted Oct. 8. The district’s 51 schools have 42,901 students, down from 43,030 in 2017. The number of students determines how much money districts get from the state. Ocala Star-Banner.

School budgets: Public hearings are held in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties over school budgets and tax rates. Hillsborough County School Board members tentatively approved a nearly $3 billion budget with a tax rate of $6.60 per $1,000 of assessed taxable value. That’s a drop from last year’s rate of $6.91. Pinellas’ board gave initial approval to a $1.5 billion budget with a $7.01 per $1,000 tax rate, down from $7.32 last year. And the Pasco County School Board tentatively approved a $1.26 billion budget with a tax rate of $6.56 per $1,000, down from $6.78 last year. Tampa Bay Times.

Pulling buses off roads: As Hurricane Michael approached the Florida Panhandle, the state Department of Education advised school districts that school buses should not be transporting students when winds hit 35 mph. Department school transportation director Robert Manspeaker says several factors are considered, such as vehicle size, wind direction and road conditions, and “based on these factors, it is recommended that the operation of school buses be limited to periods with sustained winds below 35 mph.” Gradebook.

Hope Scholarship letters: Families that have reported bullying and other types of incidents are now receiving letters to let them know their children are eligible for Hope scholarships from the state. Affected students may opt for money to pay for transportation to a new school, or to transfer to a private school. The scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. Gradebook.

School dress codes: Duval County school officials apologize to a student and his mother after the student was told he couldn’t wear a shirt with a Republican party elephant logo in school. The student was ordered by a Kirby Smith Middle School staff member to turn his shirt inside out because it violated the school dress code. The boy’s mother protested, and district officials agreed it was not a violation. WJXT.

School threats: A 12-year-old 6th-grader is arrested and accused of making threats on the social media platform Instagram against two Davie schools, Nova High and Nova Middle, over the weekend. Davie police say the girl posted 11 profane and threatening messages, including one that read: “All them teachers can die, that’s why I got a gun to kill yall,” followed by “#novamiddleschool.” Sun-SentinelMiami Herald.

A question of rankings: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s plan to use rankings from the online site MaxPreps to determine seeding for district, region and state playoffs in seven sports is questioned by some coaches who say the website has incorrect schedules and scores that lead to questionable rankings. FHSAA officials say they aren’t required to use MaxPrep rankings, but are doing so because no one else provides power rankings for sports other than football. Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Clay County schools will receive 40,000 books through a nonprofit organization called “First Book.” Schools will give students up to 10 books on a first-come, first-served basis. WJAX.

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