Surgeon general led away: Florida’s surgeon general was removed from a press briefing by an aide of the governor on Monday after saying that social distancing would need to continue until there’s a vaccine. In a video posted on Twitter, Dr. Scott Rivkees said, “So as long as we’re going to have COVID in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we’re going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected.” When asked when a vaccine might be available, Rivkees answered, “Based on what has been reported, probably a year if not longer is what some individuals have talked about.” At that point Gov. Ron DeSantis’ communications director, Helen Aguirre Ferré, walked up to Rivkees and whispered in his ear. He nodded and she walked away but she returned seconds later and led Rivkees out of the room. DeSantis’ office hasn’t commented. Rivkees’ statements appear to conflict with those from DeSantis, who has said that he sees value in possibly relaxing social distancing guidelines and reopening schools next month as long as it can be done safely. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Newsweek. News Service of Florida. The projected peak of coronavirus cases and deaths in the state has shifted from late April to early May, according to the latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Sun Sentinel. Florida Politics.
Aid for charters: Florida and two other states have applied for waivers to use federal program grants to award subgrants to charter schools that will help them with costs from dealing with the coronavirus. If the request is approved, charters could use the subgrants to buy computers and software licenses, expand Wi-Fi access, improve remote services to students with special needs, and fund teacher development and training, among other things. The U.S. Department of Education is expected to decide on the waiver requests soon. The 74. Florida colleges and universities will receive tens of billions of dollars in coronavirus relief from the U.S. Department of Education. The money is to be used to help cover costs incurred by the pandemic, but half has to be distributed directly to students. The University of Central Florida is receiving the most at $51 million. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Chronicle of Higher Education.
Early education centers: Fifty-seven percent of the state’s child-care facilities have closed since the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Florida Department of Education. The majority shut their doors when enrollment, and therefore income, dropped. Just two weeks ago only 16 percent had closed. “The profession has reached a breaking point,” said Julia Musella, a voluntary prekindergarten provider in Pompano Beach. “There will be a tremendous shortage on the other side when we come back.” Palm Beach Post.
Online education: Schooling from home has been especially disruptive for many students with special needs such as mental or physical disabilities. The disruption of the routine, the specialized learning schedule and the absence of hands-on teachers is taking a toll, say parents and educators. WFTV. Naples Daily News. WTLV. Several education and technology companies are taking part in a group called the Educating All Learners Alliance to pool resources and develop ways to help educators reach and teach students with special needs through online instruction. Education Dive. Some south Florida school districts continue to report ongoing problems with the move to online education. WLPG. About 5 percent of Escambia County School District’s students still haven’t checked in online with their schools, said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. Other than that, the transition to virtual education has been pretty smooth, he said. Pensacola News Journal. The Bay County School District has started to distribute 600 hotspots that allow students without home Internet access to get online for classes. WJHG.
More on the coronavirus: A 19-year-old student in St. Lucie West Centennial High School’s exceptional-student-education program has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. TCPalm. WPTV. Some high school seniors around the state are trying to stay optimistic while other grieve as their end-of-the-year events get canceled. Lakeland Ledger. TCPalm. WUSF. Brevard County teachers and the school district have sent almost 600 canisters of disinfectant wipes to COVID-19 treatment units in four hospitals. Florida Today. Singer Jon Bon Jovi dropped in virtually to Michael Bonick’s Marsh Pointe Elementary kindergarten class on Monday to incorporate students’ homework assignment into his new crowd-sourced song, Do What You Can. Palm Beach Post. Teachers at a Bay County elementary school hold a car parade to greet their students. Panama City News Herald. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of Agriculture. Florida Department of Education. Palm Beach Post. WJXT. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Palm Beach Post. Citrus County Chronicle. WINK. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, guidance for school districts and a glossary. Florida Department of Health. Florida Department of Education. USA Today Network.
Superintendent search: Marion County School Board members meet this morning to choose a new superintendent. The finalists, Diane Gullett, deputy superintendent of schools in Clark County, Nev., and Heath Morrison, a division president with McGraw-Hill publishing in Charlotte, N.C., were asked one last question on Monday that they didn’t get to answer at a 90-minute virtual town hall meeting Friday. Gullett was asked about her commitment to the area, and she pointed out that she was raised in Florida and spent about 20 years working in the Orlando area. Morrison was asked why he’d want to leave a $500,000 job for one that pays less than half of that. “When I first went to McGraw-Hill, I saw it as an opportunity to build my skill set and then return to public sector service at the appropriate time,” he said. Ocala Star-Banner.
Charter’s extension: A Pasco County charter elementary school has been given a five-year contract extension by the Pasco County School Board. Less than a year ago, Plato Academy at Trinity was embroiled in a rent fight with its landlord. But school board member Alison Crumbley said the 325-student school’s financial issues have been resolved. Plato officials also withdrew a request for another school, and said they have no expansion plans in the county. Gradebook.
District downgraded: The credit of the Hillsborough County School District and School Board has been downgraded by Fitch Ratings from stable to negative. The ratings organization dropped both the issuer default ratings, and the capital improvement and refunding revenue bonds series 2015 from AA+ to AA-, and the certificates of participation from AA to A+. Fitch Ratings.
Union election: Voting for the presidency of the Pasco County teachers union will take place as scheduled this month, officials of the union have announced. There were suggestions that the election be postponed, but that was rejected because all the votes are mailed in anyway. The ballots are being mailed to teachers this week and have to be returned by April 30. The president of the union, Don Peace, is being challenged by Lisa Mazza. Gradebook.
Employee honored: Ivey Colligan, the secretary for principal Lisa Lee at Orchard View Elementary School in Delray Beach, has been named the Palm Beach County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Sun Sentinel.
Notable deaths: Eddie Frasier, a teacher and the head football coach at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, has died at the age of 34. The cause of death was not disclosed, though relatives have said it was not from the coronavirus and authorities said foul play is not suspected. Frasier had taught at the school since 2009 and was an assistant football coach until last year, when he took over the head coaching job and led the team to a 10-0 regular season record and two playoffs wins before losing in the regional finals. Sun Sentinel. WTVJ. WPTV. WPLG. WSVN.
School vandalized: Police are searching for two people who vandalized Mowat Middle School in Bay County last weekend, causing about $100,000 in damages. School officials said the two broke into most of the school’s buildings and wrecked computer equipment, golf carts, sinks, microwaves, teachers’ personal items, windows and more. Panama City News Herald.
Opinions on schools: The Jacksonville City Council’s misgivings about the Duval County School Board’s request to place a half-cent sales tax hike on the ballot in November have been adequately addressed, and the council should now approve putting the issue before voters in November. Florida Times-Union. Studies have shown that schools and school systems that use a content-rich curriculum make headway against socioeconomic learning gaps because they give low-income students the background knowledge that better-resourced peers acquire in their homes. Ashley Berner, redefinED. Reopening schools could be deadly and could counteract all of the sacrifices that have already been made by prompting a new surge in community spread. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran should just go ahead and make the call to close schools for the rest of the academic year. Peter Schorsch, Florida Politics.