School closings extended, glitches mark opening of online learning, virtual school expanding and more

School closings extended: The closing of Florida’s district and charter schools has been extended from April 15 through at least May 1 because of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said on Monday that the recommendation includes all after-school events and extracurricular activities. The move came one day after President Trump extended the social distancing guidelines through April. Tallahassee Democrat. WJXT. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. WUSF. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. WJHG. WOFLWCTV. WTXL. Gainesville Sun. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Times-Union. WEAR. WFSU. WCJB. Space Coast Daily. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Florida Politics. WPTV. WJAX. WTSP. WINK.

Online learning launched: The second “first day” of school was Monday for most of Florida’s public and charter schools, and it also marked the beginning of the scramble to transition to online education. Not surprisingly, some of the programs being used by students and teachers were overwhelmed by the demand, causing glitches that took time to solve. But things went well in other districts, and some teachers reported eagerness from students in getting back into a routine, even an unusual one that is already going to last longer than expected. Here’s a roundup of what’s being reported from regions around the state:

Northwest: Leon County school officials said the first day of online education went well, with compassion for students taking priority over classroom learning. Cobb Middle School principal Sarah Hembree stressed to parents that “this is not a six-hour-day commitment for you or your child; it’s a couple of hours a day of them working on work that’s a review of what they’re doing right now.” WTXL. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat. The switch to online learning was not an entirely new development for the Escambia County School District. “Most of our curriculum is already digital,” said Lisa Marsh, an Escambia English specialist. “A lot of our teachers have already been doing instruction online.” WEAR. The transition to online learning has begun for the Jackson County School District, with Internet access the biggest concern for district officials. WMBB.

Northeast: Students and teachers in St. Johns County seemed happy to get back to school, even virtually, even as the district experienced computer system problems on Monday and reported it still doesn’t have enough laptops to go around. St. Augustine Record. Putnam County students had connectivity issues and questions about the technology being used for virtual classes. Palatka Daily News. Online learning begins Wednesday in Marion County. Ocala Star-Banner.

West central: Balky computer connections were prevalent as students in Hillsborough and Pinellas school tried to log in Monday to begin online learning. Many teachers reported that students seemed happy to be back. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. The Manatee County School District experienced widespread outages with its online learning platform, Schoology. The company reported that the issues were felt across the nation. Sarasota County starts distance learning Wednesday. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bay News 9. The Pasco County School District begins its online classes today. Officials said the schedule will be flexible and relaxed. Tampa Bay Times.

East central: Anxiety was high on Day 1 of online learning in Orange, Lake, Seminole and Osceola counties, technical problems were many and patience was urged as problems are being addressed. Orlando SentinelWKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. Seminole County students began their day having trouble logging into the system used for distance learning, but those issues were taken care of within an hour or so and the rest of the day was smoother. WFTV. WOFL. Live video learning had to be shut down in Martin County and Jensen Beach High School after some students shared pornography during live meetings through Google Classroom. The sheriff’s office is investigating. The district also had technical issues throughout the day. St. Lucie County school officials reported a smooth first day. TCPalm. Distance learning has begun for some Polk County students, and expands to all starting on Thursday. Lakeland Ledger. Brevard County students had problems logging into Launchpad and FOCUS, the primary portals the district is using to deliver virtual lessons and assignments. Florida Today. Volusia and Flagler students experience similar problems logging into systems. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Southwest: Several southwest Florida school districts reported minor log-in problems that were quickly resolved on the first day of online learning. WINK.

Southeast: Widespread computer systems crashes were reported in Broward County when students tried to log into the Canvas and Clever learning platforms, though most students were able to log in by 3 p.m. Things went more smoothly in Miami-Dade County, although teachers had questions about grading and attendance that administrators said will take a week to get resolved. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. WPEC. WPLG.

Virtual school expansion: Florida Virtual School, the state’s online K-12 school, is asking the Florida Board of Education for $4.3 million to upgrade its technology so it can increase capacity from the current 170,000 students in district, charter and private schools to 470,000 by April 17 and 2.7 million by May 4. The board is expected to approve the request at its meeting Wednesday. FLVS also announced it is offering 100 free digital courses to all state K-12 students through the end of the school year. The classes include math, English language arts, history, science, various electives, Advanced Placement and technical education courses. redefinED. Capital Soup. Florida Politics.

More on the coronavirus: Teachers talk about what the closing of schools has meant to them. Tallahassee Democrat. An employee at the Lakeland Christian School has tested positive for the coronavirus. That employee has had no contact with students since March 12, and online learning began the next day. Lakeland Ledger. The coronavirus’ disruption of the daily school schedule has been a challenge for school districts. But it could also present an opportunity for districts, when schools resume, to rework their daily schedules to capitalize on the research concerning school start times and class length. Education Dive. Teachers and students are finding that some subjects are more difficult to teach online. Associated Press. Trends in online learning across America. The 74. The Duval County School has launched a virtual art gallery to display the artwork of students. Florida Times-Union. School districts are still distributing laptops and electronic devices to students, and setting up wifi and hot spots. Keys Weekly. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA. School districts and other organizations continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. WPEC. WWSB. WFTS. WSVN. Pensacola News Journal. Citrus County Chronicle. WJXT. WMFE. WESH. WCTV. WINK. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, guidance for school districts and a glossaryFlorida Department of HealthFlorida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. The Florida Department of Education’s best practices for online education. Florida Department of Education. The CDC’s latest guidance for K-12 schools. Education Dive. Forty-six states have closed schools. T.H.E. Journal.

Changes for resource officers: School closings have meant the reassignment of many school resource officers, mostly to patrol shifts in their departments’ communities but some to such duties as handing out laptops to students. Often, crime jumps when schools are out, but officials say it’s too early to spot any such trend. “There has been no discernible increase in juvenile types of crime aside from some vehicles being entered when left unlocked, that is often the case when schools are out,” said Mitch Haley, a spokesman with the Fort Myers Police Department. Naples Daily News.

Stay-at-home order: Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed an executive order that urges residents of the south Florida counties of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe to stay at home through mid-May. Later, he said he misspoke and meant to say mid-April. The order allows residents to leave their homes only for essential work or to pick up food and medication. “This codifies a set of rules regarding ‘Safer at Home’ in Southeast Florida,” he said. “It gets all four counties operating on the same sheet of music.” DeSantis said he’s targeting the order to these four counties instead of the entire state because they make up about 58 percent of the coronavirus cases in Florida. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Phoenix.

Superintendent’s race: Buddy Brown, an assistant principal at Marianna Middle School in Jackson County, has announced that he’s running for the superintendent’s position in Holmes County. The current superintendent is Terry Mears, who was first elected in 2016. Holmes County Times Advertiser.

Employees and the law: The head athletic trainer at St. Augustine High School has been arrested and charged with video voyeurism. Darrell Andrew Crews, 38, also coached the flag football team at the school. St. Johns County deputies said Crews used his cell phone to secretly record videos of a topless female student. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: High expectations and hard work, not “magic Cubans,” led to the literacy surge of Hispanics in the state between 1998 and 2002. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: A film about coral reefs by four juniors from the Sarasota Military Academy charter school was chosen as the winner in a national contest. The film, titled Coral to Action, was named the winner by the Coral Restoration Foundation out of 100 submissions by 240 students. Timothy Baldwin, Haley Coady, Kelly Fletes and Dominique Storr put together the film with guidance from marine science teacher Jeanette Marks. The school will receive an aquarium. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Patch.

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