Early education proposal, bill for therapists in classrooms, school construction plans and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Early education proposal: The Florida Department of Education is proposing to tighten requirements for child-care providers for the 2020-2021 school year, and day-care providers say the changes could leave thousands of Florida children without access to state-subsidized care. The plan would raise the minimum ratings providers would need to meet to continue receiving state funding. Last year, 24 percent of those providers — more than 1,000 — did not meet the proposed higher standard. Politico Florida.

Therapy bill advances: A bill that would add registered behavior technicians to the list of therapists allowed to accompany students into classrooms has been approved by the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee. H.B. 575 was filed by state Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, after an RBT was removed from a classroom by Brevard County school officials who cited state law in ruling that RBTs were not permitted to accompany students. The boy’s father, Jonathan Pogar, lobbied for a change and testified before the subcommittee. “The impact RBTs have on the lives of children with special needs is nothing short of groundbreaking,” he said. “(They) are able to push our children to make leaps and bounds with their therapy.” Florida Today.

Schools construction plan: The Pasco County School District is considering a proposal to spend $250 million on building and renovating schools and launching new academic programs. District officials want to close Hudson Elementary School, a move that was considered a year ago but rejected by the school board. Under the latest plan, two magnet schools would be built and as many as five schools would be renovated. Construction would begin in 2021 and continue through 2024. Superintendent Kurt Browning said the plan is meant to improve outcomes in areas that have lagged academically. Tampa Bay Times. WFTS.

Temporary homes sought: Alachua County School Board members are looking for alternatives to a plan that would have put portable classrooms on Westwood Middle School property for students while their schools are being renovated. That plan was put on hold after it drew objections from school parents and nearby residents because of traffic and emergency evacuation concerns. The board is looking for a place for Howard Bishop Middle School students to be educated while 18 buildings at their school are demolished and 32 new classrooms built. District officials say delays in starting the project will boost the costs by 6-12 percent a year.  Gainesville Sun.

School impact fees increased: The Hernando County Commission has voted to increase impact fees on new single-family homes by almost 50 percent to raise money for school construction. “We are going to have to build new schools, and impact fees will help us do that,” said board member Linda Prescott. Fees will increase from $2,133 to $3,176, and go into effect next June. The school district is at 98 percent capacity, said Superintendent John Stratton. He estimates the cost of a 10-classroom expansion at $6.5-$7.5 million, and the cost of a new elementary school at $21-$23 million. Tampa Bay Times.

Money for sidewalks sought: State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is asking the state Legislature to commit $2 million to support a Hillsborough County plan to building more sidewalks and make other improvements to help students who walk or ride their bikes to school to get there safely. WFTS.

Contract negotiations: Pasco County teachers and the school district reach an agreement on a contract that would give teachers raises of 3.25 percent. That’s the same pay hike that was agreed to last month for school-related employees. A ratification vote will be held in January, and the deal will then go to the school board for approval. Gradebook. WFLA.

Education issues Q&A: State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, the chair of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and vice chair of the House Education Committee, talks about school security, teacher pay, bonuses and more in a Q&A. News Service of Florida.

Superintendent search: Resumes have been released for the 51 candidates who have applied to replace Jeff Eakins as superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District. Eakins is retiring next June. The only current superintendent to have applied is Addison Davis, who runs the Clay County School District. Among the other applicants are a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force who commanded a wing at MacDill Air Force Base, the former chief of the Oregon and Wyoming lottery systems, an ex-police officer and two current Hillsborough administrators. The field is expected to be culled to about a dozen by early January. Gradebook.

New superintendent: David Moore takes over today as superintendent of the Indian River County School District, and said he will start by aligning the district’s efforts for supporting schools and principals. “I’m looking forward to getting in and setting high expectations for what students and adults can do,” he said. Educators in the district and others who have worked with him elsewhere say he’s well-positioned to meet the objectives he’s setting. TCPalm.

Pushing back on violence: Four students of Godby High School in Tallahassee have died in shootings this year, and school officials and community leaders say they’ve had enough. At a special school assembly this week, they pleaded with students to help end the epidemic of gun violence. Among the speakers were a former drug dealer who was granted clemency after being sentenced to life in prison, a motivational speaker, the Florida A&M football coach and Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

Ballet in schools: Tallahassee Ballet CEO Janet Pichard is proposing that the Leon County School District start a dance program with classes at schools. Pichard said about $50,000 is needed to start the program, and fund-raising has begun. Superintendent Rocky Hanna was receptive to the idea, saying, “I think our principals are going to be very interested. It will help kids get motivated to live healthy lives.” Tallahassee Democrat.

School calendars: Lake County School Board members approve a 2020-2021 school year calendar that was the preferred choice of parents in an online poll. The school year will start Aug. 10 and end May 28, and students will be out of school for Veterans Day and for a week at Thanksgiving. Orlando Sentinel.

Storm closes school: Lightning struck Central High School in Bay County when a series of strong storms moved through the area on Tuesday, closing the school. Several other schools reported power and phone outages. Panama City News Herald.

Principal transferred: A Manatee County School District investigation has concluded that the Palmetto Elementary School principal might have unintentionally harmed an autistic student when she lifted his chair and he fell to the floor in November. That principal, Michelle Mealor, was investigated by police but no charges were filed. She has been transferred to the district’s curriculum department pending a review of the case by the Florida Department of Education. Bradenton Herald.

Employees and the law: A Santa Rosa County school bus aide has been arrested and accused of showing photos of naked men to an 11-year-old student and her classmate. Jessica Anne Wylie, 35, has been charged with distributing obscene material to a minor. Pensacola News Journal.

Students and the law: A 14-year-old New Smyrna Beach Middle School student has been arrested and accused of threatening to shoot students at the school. New Smyrna Beach police and Volusia County sheriff’s deputies were alerted through the app Fortify Florida about the threat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WFTV.

Student hit by car: A 12-year-old Martin County student is recovering after he was hit by a car while riding his bike to Murray Middle School. Police say the driver, 32-year-old Jennifer Scala, ran a red light, hit the bicyclist and then drove away. Another driver followed her and called police, who arrested Scala. WPTV.

Opinions on schools: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie’s effort to protect himself by brushing off security issues in schools has reached the point of irresponsibility. He has created a culture that values image over substance. How long will the school board let him get away with it? Randy Schultz, Sun Sentinel. The Florida grand jury report published last week shocks the senses. In the 18 pages, jurors document how school districts have lagged or flat-out failed to put into practice mandatory security fixes since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings Feb. 14, 2018. Glenna Milberg, Sun Sentinel. To ensure that all families have the same education options, the Florida Legislature must allow the Family Empowerment Scholarship program to serve more students. No child’s future should be put on hold. Doug Tuthill, Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: Three Oaks Elementary School of Fort Myers is one of 10 U.S. schools to receive a $10,000 grant from the Burlington Stores’ Adopt My School Sweepstakes. The school’s teachers will use the money to stock their classroom supplies. Fort Myers News-Press. Two students from Cutler Bay Senior High School in Miami-Dade County were among 20 from around the world chosen to meet Pope Francis. They are U.S. representatives of Scholas Occurrentes, an international citizenship program started by the pope. Miami Herald. Triangle Elementary School in Lake County is one of 50 schools in the United States to be awarded a $2,500 grant from the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens Network. Jacqueline Holmes, a 4th-grade teacher at the school, will use the money to help her students cultivate a garden and to teach them about its benefits. Daily Commercial. Students from the Titan Ambassadors program at Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie take 10 elementary school children shopping for $100 worth of free gifts. TCPalm. Good Samaritans have donated toys for needy children to replace the ones being kept inside a trailer that was stolen from St. Kevin Catholic School in southwest Miami-Dade County. WSVN.

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