Florida schools roundup: Back to school returns, helping teachers and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Back to school: Several Bay County schools are now scheduled to reopen Nov. 5, according to district officials. All district schools have been closed since Hurricane Michael made landfall in the county Oct. 10. At least one will operate under a split schedule and two others will include students displaced from other schools. The rest of the schools are expected to open no later than the week of Nov. 12. Superintendent Bill Husfelt says district officials are working with the Florida Department of Education on an adjusted schedule for the rest of the school year that they hope to announce this week. WMBB. WJHG. Jackson County students return to school today. Tallahassee Democrat. Donations are pouring in for Bay County students. Panama City News Herald. Arnold High School will be used as a long-term shelter for displaced Bay County residents. Panama City News Herald. A private school in Bay County, Holy Nativity Episcopal School, resumes classes today. Panama City News Herald. Students from counties affected by the hurricane who started attending schools in nearby counties will have to return to their schools when they reopen unless they had a “complete family move.” WTXL. The Indian River County and Charlotte County school districts donate books and other school supplies to Panhandle schools affected by the hurricane. WPTV. Charlotte Sun.

Teachers trying to recover: Like students, teachers in the Florida Panhandle are struggling to regain a sense of normalcy after the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael. “I don’t have a home, so how can I be effective at my work when I can’t shower or cook food?” asks Denise Hinson, who teaches 7th-graders language arts at New Horizons Learning Center. “Maybe I will live at the school? I don’t have anything else to do.” Bay County School District spokeswoman Sharon Michalik says the district is meeting with community leaders to find housing options for teachers. “We have a delicate balance between the humanitarian needs and the need to open schools in order to show our community that normal will exist again,” she says. “We have teachers who have lost everything and they are camping out in their classrooms. We’ll have to find them somewhere else to live.” Associated Press.

Education and politics: Where does Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum stand on school choice? Gillum has said he wants to bring the state’s scholarship programs “to a conclusion,” and his campaign platform states that he’s “strongly opposed to unaccountable, for-profit charter schools who want to use public dollars to enrich their executives.” But last week Gillum denied he would cut funding for charter schools. “I’m not proposing any change to the current status quo. What we are saying is that we’re going to put money into our public system where over 90 percent of our kids are still being educated.” Washington Examiner. Paying starting teachers $50,000 a year, as Gillum proposes, would cost the St. Johns County School District $12.8 million. And that doesn’t include the boost in salaries for other teachers to keep salaries equitable. St. Augustine Record.

Superintendent choice: Voters in Escambia County, the second-largest Florida district that still elects its school superintendent, will decide Nov. 6 whether to keep that practice or switch to appointed superintendents. The county has voted five times since 1967 to keep electing superintendents. Florida and Alabama will be the only states that still allow elected superintendents after Mississippi switches in January. Pensacola News Journal.

School board elections: Previewing the race for the District 4 seat on the Manatee County School Board. Bradenton Herald. Previewing the race for the District 5 seat on the Polk County School Board. Lakeland Ledger. Previewing the last weeks of campaigning for three seats on the Marion County School Board. Ocala Star-Banner.

Charter schools: The Clermont City Council is being urged to reconsider its recent approval for a charter school. The request from for-profit Charter Schools USA had been turned down twice by the Lake County School Board before the board relented. The council then approved a construction permit. But last week, opponents of the school, which include school board member Marc Dodd and Superintendent Diane Kornegay, said Charters Schools USA lied when it said other schools in the area were overcrowded and that the school board had vetted the proposed site. Because the council had already approved the permit, though, the only recourse left to residents is to appeal to the Lake County Circuit Court. Daily Commercial.

School security: All Charlotte County schools now have video doorbells that allow staffers to see who’s at the front door. The technology, which was recommended after an assessment of the district’s security at schools, cost $343,000. Charlotte Sun.

Teacher retention: The Barancik Foundation donates $250,000 to address teacher recruitment and retention and recruitment. “It came to our attention that people are not going into the field of education,” says foundation president Teri Hansen. “There’s a perception issue of the teaching field and you have baby boomers retiring, so we have too few teachers.” The Sarasota County School District has 14 open teaching positions, and 16 fulltime slots are filled by long-term substitutes. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Parental permission for clubs: The Pasco County School Board is weighing its options over a parent’s request to require parental permission for their children to join school clubs. “They require parental permission to play sports and to go on field trips,” says that parent, GloriAnna Kirk, who made her request after discovering her daughter’s school had a Gay-Straight Alliance. “I don’t feel that what I’m asking for is anything big, or it’s going to be hard for them to do.” Board member Alison Crumbley says there’s a fine line for the board to walk. “There’s two things going on. You have parental rights, because they’re minors. But at the same time, you don’t want to deny a student access to a club, particularly if they need some help or support.” Gradebook.

School programs: An educational consultant will introduce the concept of “authentic literacy” lessons to teachers at three Lake County schools. Authentic literacy is defined as the application of reading skills to real-world problems and using real situations to teach rather than traditional methods, such as worksheets. Daily Commercial. An $866,000 grant has helped rejuvenate the Leesburg High School Construction Academy, with 80 students in the academy’s six classes that can lead to certifications in carpentry, plumbing, electrical and other trades. Daily Commercial.

Snake alert at schools: Police officers are warning students at the Somerset Academy in Pembroke Pines to be on the lookout for venomous snakes after two on-campus sights of water moccasins. The school and several others nearby are close to the 450-acre Chapel Trail Nature Preserve, which is home to a variety of snakes and alligators. WPLG.

Head lice outbreak: Some parents are questioning the way the Volusia County School District is handling cases of head lice. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Plea in theft case: A former member of the Putnam County School Board reaches a pretrial agreement that defers prosecution on her grand theft charge if she meets the conditions set by the court. Nikki Mussoline Cummings agreed to repay a Palatka Walmart $65 for items she shoplifted in May and June, complete an anti-theft course, write an apology letter to Putnam County students, pay court fees and carry a shoplifting sign for two hours that reads “I Stole From A Local Store.” Florida Times-Union.

Principal under investigation: A Citrus County principal is temporarily reassigned while the school district investigates a complaint against him. The nature of the complaint against Charles Brooks, principal at Crystal River Middle School, was undisclosed. Citrus County Chronicle.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old sophomore at West Nassau High School in Callahan is arrested and accused of making threats against students at his school. The boy said he was only joking when he posted a photo on social media of someone in a mask adorned with skulls holding a handgun with the words “Don’t come to school tomorrow.” WJXT. Florida Times-Union. A 14-year-old girl is arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment after being filmed beating another girl at Armwood High School in Hillsborough County. The girl told deputies that she was mad because the victim’s cousins were following her around the school. WFMY.

Opinions on schools: The Volusia County School District and its teachers suffer from a cruelly unfair funding formula. But both sides should also agree that Volusia County’s No. 1 priority should be the children who arrive on campus every day, in need of the high-quality education that will give them their best shot at a happy, productive future. Daytona Beach News-Journal. When it comes to opening the doors of STEM opportunity for all of Florida’s students, the state’s charter sector should be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. May we, as taxpayers in Marion County, be so bold as to ask why and how such startling increases and costs are showing up for our five-member school board? Suzanne Eovaldi, Ocala Star-Banner.

Student enrichment: The Immokalee Foundation starts a scholarship to help pay expenses, such as cold-weather clothing and travel expenses, for students who attend colleges far from Collier County. Immokalee Bulletin. Chalet Brannan, a 13-year-old student at the Davenport School of the Arts in Haines City, stars in the horror movie Crepitus, which was screened last weekend in Orlando. Lakeland Ledger. Students from 14 Sarasota County schools raise more than $18,500 for cancer research in a “Go Gold” campaign to honor two children who died of cancer. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Students at the i3 Academy in Flagler County are interviewing Florida women for first-hand accounts of the women’s rights movement. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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