Aid for education, online learning expectations, superintendent given more authority and more

Aid for education: A $2.2 trillion relief package to fight the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday and is expected to be voted on by the House on Friday. Most of the money goes to help struggling industries, hospitals, small businesses, families by issuing $1,200 checks to most adults and $500 to most children, and for improved unemployment benefits and food stamps. But it also allows students to defer loan payments for six month and keep Pell grants, and permits the waiving of federal testing rules for K-12 students. The emergency supplemental appropriations portion of the bill, worth about $340 billion, includes almost $31 billion for education. About $14 billion will go to higher education to compensate for lost revenue and increased technology costs associated with the switch to distance education, plus grants for students for food, housing, course materials and more; $13.5 billion is earmarked for elementary and secondary education for expenses surround school closures and buying technology for online learning; and $3 billion will go to governors to make emergency grants to school districts and colleges and universities. Associated Press. New York Times. Washington Post. Politico. Politico FloridaUSA Today. CNN. Education Week. School leaders should protect their reserves, stop spending, stop hiring and avoid making promotions during a time when school district revenues are plunging, say education experts. Education Dive.

How long online? Broward County school Superintendent Robert Runcie said he expects the rest of this school year to be conducted remotely, and even suggested the changes in the way classes are taught could extend into the 2020-2021 school year. “My belief and intention and plan is that we’re going to go to the end of this school year using this virtual format. And it may even go longer,” Runcie said during a virtual conference with state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. “I’m hopeful that by the start of the next school year that a lot of these challenges will be addressed so we can get back to some sense of normalcy. But I absolutely believe that the remainder of this school year is going to be this new format that we will start on March 30.” Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. WSVN.

Online instruction: Leon County school officials are moving individual education plans online for students with special needs. The district will use Microsoft Teams, which also includes a training module for parents. Teachers will meet with parents and students by March 30, and begin online instruction April 13. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WTXL. The Osceola County School District’s online learning plan does not include handing out electronic devices to each student because the district doesn’t have enough. High school students will be given priority for getting a device. Lesson plans will be individualized, and each student will be asked to complete one assignment per day. WKMG. The Bay County School District’s distance learning plan is approved by the Florida Department of Education. It includes specific class subjects but also individualized routines for students. Panama City News Herald. WMBB. Facebook provides a way for Florida teachers to lean on each other for support and tips for online instruction. Tampa Bay Times. Florida’s Catholic schools have made the switch to online learning for their 65,000 students with relatively few problems. redefinED. Other school districts also are making preparations to hold online classes for students, handing out electronic devices to students, training teachers and assembling materials. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay Times. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. WINK. Florida Today. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Daily Commercial. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. WKMG. Here are the specific guidelines issued by the Department of Education to help public and private schools transition to alternative learning  during the pandemic. redefinED.

Superintendent’s authority: Brevard County School Board members voted 4-1 to temporarily grant Superintendent Mark Mullins wide discretion on spending money on behalf of the district if the board is unable to meet during the coronavirus crisis. Mullins will be able to authorize payments, solicit and negotiate for services and oversee vendor contracts, with no spending caps. That authority would revert to the board at its next regular meeting, which might not take place until June. Tina Descovich was the only no vote, saying, “That hands a lot of authority — not that I don’t trust Dr. Mullins. But it eliminates oversight on contracts, on budgets. I’m very uncomfortable with this.” Florida Today.

More on the coronavirus: A Flagler County school employee has tested positive for the coronavirus. District officials wouldn’t say where the employee worked, or if she or he was involved in passing out electronic devices to students. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WKMG. Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated on Wednesday that he won’t be issuing strict stay-at-home orders, saying he didn’t want to be a “dictator.” But many local governments are disagreeing and issuing their own. Sun Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. President Trump approves DeSantis’ request to declare Florida a disaster area, making it eligible for federal aid. Associated Press. The University of South Florida, University of Central Florida and Florida State University announce that they will issue students pass-fail grades for the second semester, and the University of Florida is expected to soon join them. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Teachers from a Polk County elementary drive through Lakeland neighborhoods, parade-style, to say hello to their homebound students. Lakeland Ledger. School districts and other organizations continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. WUBL. Tampa Bay Times. Space Coast Daily. WMBB. Florida Today. Ocala Star-Banner. Florida Politics. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, guidance for school districts and a glossaryFlorida Department of HealthFlorida Department of Education. USA Today. The CDC’s latest guidance for K-12 schools. Education Dive.

School machines damaged: Several vending machines at DeLand High School were damaged by vandals sometime in the past four days. Volusia school officials estimated the damage at about $7,000. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: A Collier County high school senior writes a heartfelt letter to classmates, saying she hopes and prays every night that school resumes in April for at least have a few weeks and graduation, but for now she will stay strong and connected through text, FaceTime and Skype. Becca Pacter, Naples Daily News. At-home learning is an adjustment for teachers, students and parents. Laura Y. Maxwell, Gainesville Sun. Parents practicing “social distancing” in the coming weeks should use this period to get closer to their child’s school assignments. Jonathan Butcher, redefinED.

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