Stay-at-home order: After consulting with President Trump on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order restricting the movement of residents in the state to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. DeSantis said the order would begin at midnight today, and will be in effect for at least 30 days. The ban allows residents to go to grocery stores, visit doctors and pick up medicine, buy gas, exercise outside and commute to jobs. More than 100 people have died in Florida from the coronavirus, and nearly 8,000 cases have been confirmed. Florida joined Pennsylvania and Nevada in issuing shutdown orders on Wednesday. President Trump has resisted a national shutdown, saying it was “pretty unlikely” he would do so. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Associated Press. NBC News. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. What are considered “essential” businesses, and other questions and answers about the stay-at-home order. Sun Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. WESH.
Virtual school expansion approved: Florida Virtual School will expand from its current 170,000 students to as many as 2.7 million by May 4 after the state Board of Education unanimously approved a $4.3 million request. The money will be used to upgrade the existing technology to handle a larger load of district, charter and private school students. FLVS will also make 100 digital courses available free to public and private schools through May. Louis Algaze, the chief executive officer of FLVS, said 147 teachers have already been trained to teach online and another 3,417 have signed up for training. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave “tremendous credit to the entire education community in the state of Florida” and called the transition “the most massive pivot the educational world has ever seen.” Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning did tell the board that distance learning challenges remain, and educational equity is also a concern for school districts. redefinED. Orlando Sentinel. WFSU. Florida Politics.
Online education updates: More than 146,000 Palm Beach County students logged in Tuesday on the first day of online classes, or about 80 percent of all students, which district leaders said surpassed their expectations. Palm Beach Post. In Brevard County it was 90 percent on the first day Tuesday. That’s 59,000 students. Florida Today. There were the usual technical glitches, but no major disruptions were reported on the first day of online education in the Marion County School District. WCJB. Ocala Star-Banner. Polk County school officials are passing out 60,000 electronic devices for students to use when online classes begin today. WTVT. Lakeland Ledger. Sarasota County students also begin online classes today. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
But some are left behind: About 800 immigrant students at Miami Jackson Senior High School were left out of the switchover to online learning, say their teachers. The students, between the ages of 16 and 18, are in the General Educational Development program, which is considered part of adult education. “What [is] the messaging we’re sending out to them? asked one teacher. “Why weren’t they a priority as everyone else?” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho apologized and said the situation has been fixed. Miami Herald.
Teacher unions’ perspectives: Florida Education Association president Fedrick Ingram talks about teachers having to adjust to online learning, the challenges it presents for rural students, the pay raise for teachers passed by the Legislature and the unknowns about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect school district budgets and teacher’s jobs in the 2020-2021 school year. Florida Phoenix. The president of the Hernando County teachers union said online learning has posed a “tremendous learning curve’’ for teachers, but they’re getting through it with patience and teamwork from all school workers. “It’s a shift in how business is done as usual, but we’ll get through this,’’ said Vincent Laborante. Tampa Bay Times. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union, criticized Gov. DeSantis for sending what she called mixed signals about whether schools should be closed and for ignoring advice from health experts. WLRN.
More on the coronavirus: Some campus police officers are still on the job protecting empty schools. WPLG. Teachers and students at the North Florida School of Special Education in Jacksonville and the HOPE Ranch Learning Academy in Pasco County are adapting to online education for students with special needs. WTLV. redefinED. Tallahassee Democrat. Scientists are offering teachers K-12 resources to use in their online instruction. The University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute’s Scientist in Every Florida School Program is up and running in Alachua, Escambia, Lee, Palm Beach and Seminole counties, with plans to expand into Levy and Marion counties. But the resources are now available statewide. WJXT. Social media has been a lifeline for students separated from their friends and classmates. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Security experts say school districts need to be careful if they’re using the Zoom teleconferencing platform to conduct online learning. It can be hacked, they say, leaving children vulnerable to predators and meetings open to hijacking. Tampa Bay Times. About 50 Manatee County school buses have been outfitted with Internet capabilities and are roaming the county, acting as hot spots for students who otherwise wouldn’t have reliable access. Bay News 9. Bradenton Herald. WFTS. The switch to online learning has had an impact on college students who were doing teaching internships. TCPalm. Five tips for parents from psychologists on ways to make sure their children get the most out of their virtual education. WJXT. Tampa Bay area YMCAs are now offering child-care for $10 a day for parents who are considered essential workers. Tampa Bay Times. Michael Mills, a senior at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton, and teachers and students at Dr. Mona Jain Middle in Bradenton have been making face shields for medical workers with 3D printers. Bradenton Herald. School districts and other organizations continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of Agriculture. Florida Department of Education. Space Coast Daily. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, guidance for school districts and a glossary. Florida Department of Health. Florida Department of Education. 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.
Naturally, pranks: April Fools’ Day couldn’t pass without pranks in schools, even when schools are closed and everyone is tethered to their laptops and electronic devices. In Leon County, a parent posted a meme showing a photograph of Gov. DeSantis with the words, “Florida: Students will repeat their current grade for 2021 year.” In Hernando County, a handful of students got a text message that read: “Students: FDOE has mandated that you still take the FSA writing test at home today. Please log into Canvas ANYTIME today for your writing test.” Of course both quickly went viral, panicking some families and students who didn’t get the jokes. Some were not amused. “With what we’re going through right now … and the stress that everyone is in, that’s not remotely a joke,” said Danielle Underwood, who runs the Fix Hernando Schools Facebook page. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee Democrat.
A rezoning public hearing: The Pasco County School Board has agreed to hold a public hearing with public comments next Tuesday over a rezoning proposal. Board members and members of the community will be physically spaced out to abide by the state’s rules. Board member Alison Crumbley argued to hold the meeting via a phone conference, and said she will either attend remotely or done a mask and gloves to attend. The hearing is required to set attendance boundaries for elementary schools in the northwest part of the county. Tampa Bay Times.
Contract approved: The Monroe County School Board approved a contract agreement with the teachers union that extends the school year to June 11. Board members “attended” from remote locations. Most of the meeting was devoted to updates about the district’s education continuity plan. Key West Citizen.
District loses tax fight: The Florida Supreme Court has declined to consider the Escambia County School District’s challenge of a state tax law. A condominium association had sued the Escambia property appraiser and tax collector over an assessment on property under the condo. The school district jumped into the suit, arguing that the law allowing a tax exemption in the case was unconstitutional. A circuit court ruled that the district had no standing to make a challenge, a decision that was upheld by an appeals court. News Service of Florida.
School board elections: Deborah Stallworth Crosby, who retired after a 40-year career as a teacher and administrator, has announced her candidacy for the District 4 seat on the Gulf County School Board. That seat has been open since the death of Billy Quinn Jr. in March 2019. Port St. Joe Star.
Opinions on schools: The only way Florida can sustainably improve the preparation of its students for careers in these fields is to do whatever it takes to recruit the teaching corps it needs to give all of its students – regardless of income and race – access to high quality instruction in math and science (including calculus and physics) as well as in the other subjects that students need to succeed in these and other fields. The economic future of the state depends on it. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Ready or not, parents have been forced by the coronavirus to become assistant teachers for their children’s online education. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel. It probably isn’t a big deal that Martin County School Superintendent Laurie Gaylord was photographed sitting about a foot behind a student so she could observe distance learning in action. But it could be. Gil Smart, TCPalm.