Task force to reopen Florida is chosen, graduations, school spring sports season killed and more

‘Reopening’ Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force, which met for the first time on Monday, heard a dreary assessment of a timeline for the recovery of the state’s economy. An analyst for the Florida Chamber of Commerce told the group that the best-case scenario is the recovery starting by the end of the year, and in the worst case it could take four years. The task force will meet daily and present its recommendations Friday on how to reopen the economy and get people back to work. Two education officials are among the 22 members of the task force. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Syd Kitson, chairman of Board of Governors for the State University System, join the governor, seven other Republican officials or legislators, one Republican and two Democratic mayors from south Florida, and 10 business leaders on the panel. There are no doctors on the task force, though member John Couris is president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. Associated Press. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WFSU. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WJXT. WKMG.

Graduation considerations: The Miami-Dade County School District will hold virtual high school graduations this spring, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has announced. He said it’s still possible traditional ceremonies can be held later in the summer, if restrictions against large gatherings are lifted. WPLG. The Pinellas County School District’s decision over the weekend to have virtual graduation ceremonies for its 17 high schools is now being reconsidered after complaints from students. Superintendent Michael Grego backed off the earlier plan after students initiated a petition against it, and on Monday afternoon he said in a statement that he was working on reserving dates in June or July. Hillsborough County canceled its May 21 ceremonies in Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds, but hopes to reschedule between July 13 and 23. Other Tampa Bay area school districts are still working on their plans. Tampa Bay Times. Patch. WTVT. The Clay County School District will hold graduation ceremonies sometime in July, according to interim superintendent David Broskie. WJXT. Graduation ceremonies will be held Aug. 4-13 for Putnam County high schools, district officials have announced. Decisions on whether the ceremonies will be modified will be made later. WJXT. Bay County School District principals have until Wednesday to pitch their ideas for high school graduations, Superintendent Bill Husfelt said on Monday. Suggestions have ranged from virtual ceremonies to a traditional commencement as late as December. Other Panhandle districts are still considering their options. Panama City News Herald. WMBB. WJHG.

Spring sports season killed: The Florida High School Athletic Association announced on Monday that it will not try to salvage the spring sports season once Gov. DeSantis decided that schools would not reopen next month, and will not extend an extra year of eligibility for students participating in those sports. When schools were ordered closed in mid-March, the FHSAA had said it would consider a shortened season, even extending to June 30 if necessary, and that if the season got canceled it would consider granting spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility if they repeated their grade level. This is the first time in the history of the FHSAA, which formed in 1920, that spring sports seasons were canceled before concluding. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Naples Daily News. TCPalm. Pensacola News Journal. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Panama City News Herald. St. Augustine Record. Lakeland Ledger. WTVT.

No relief for some: While most public and private school educators and parents agreed with Gov. DeSantis’ decision to keep schools closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, some parents have expressed conflicting feelings. “If this is going to continue on for another month, they need to come up with another solution,” said Tiffany Hohenfeldt on Seminole County, who has three boys, ages 7, 5 and 3. “There are parents who are really struggling.” Hohenfeldt and her husband, like many Florida parents, are working fulltime from home. Fulfilling that obligation, as well as guiding her children through their schoolwork all day, is stressful, she said. “I don’t have eight hours a day on top of everything else that is going on.” Orlando Sentinel. WPLG. WJXT. WTSP.

Online education: The Leon County School District has canceled all final exams, Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced on Monday. He said that teachers will develop a “curve model” that all schools will use to calculate grades. Hanna implored the students to “try your best”during the final weeks of school. The district said 94 percent of students have checked in on classes remotely. Tallahassee Democrat. Teachers in Escambia County are “in a groove” with online instruction, said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, so the governor’s decision to keep schools closed through the end of the academic year was not unwelcome news. Going back would have been more trouble than it would have been worth, he said. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. Catholic schools in the Tampa Bay area will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, and their 13,000 students will continue with online learning. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. School officials in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties are discussing new summer learning programs and other ways to supplement online learning. TCPalm.

More on the coronavirus: Teachers across Florida say they’re worried about losing their jobs because they aren’t able to take their state certification exams due to the testing centers being closed by the coronavirus pandemic. The state extended teaching certificates expiring in June for a month, but teachers who need to pass the tests to work say that isn’t long enough. WFTS. The enrollment period for Florida Prepaid college plans has been extended to May 31 because of the pandemic, according to the officials with the program. Earlier this month the board deferred payments for account-holders for three months, until July, to help families with their finances. WTXL. The Seminole County School District honored its graduating class by turning on the lights at high school stadiums at 8:20 p.m., or 20:20 in military time. WOFL. So did officials at the St. Johns Country Day School in Orange Park, who switched on the lights at the closed school. WJXT. The cap-and-gown pickup at Tavares High School in Lake County was turned into a celebration for graduating seniors. Daily Commercial. Students at the K-10 Temple Emanu-El’s Religious School in Sarasota are writing letters to elderly people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and those from the Pine View School are making cards for hospital workers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed and offer locations for Internet access. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Bradenton Herald. Gradebook. Tampa Bay Times. WCTV. WFTS.

‘Objectionable’ books: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and books with gay or transgender content were among the school and library books that drew the most objections from parents and community groups in 2019, according to the American Library Association. Deborah Caldwell Stone, who heads the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said there were 377 challenges, and many complaints came from organizations such as the Florida Citizens Alliance, which issued a list of “Porn in Florida Public Schools” that included Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Cory Silverberg’s Sex Is a Funny Word. USA Today. Education Week.

Electioneering: The longest-serving member of the Hillsborough County School Board is giving up her seat to run for the county clerk of court job. Cindy Stuart, a Democrat who has been on the school board since 2012, wants to replace the retiring Pat Frank, also a Democrat. Stuart is running against former county commissioner Kevin Beckner in the primary Aug. 18. The Republican primary pits County Commissioner Sandra Murman against D.C. Goutoufas. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher’s firing recommended: A Broward County teacher should be fired for calling students names like brat, idiot and dummy, district administrators are recommending to the school board. Eric Delucia, a language arts and technology teacher at Piper High School in Sunrise, has “a history of inappropriate conduct and verbally abusive interactions with his students,” according to the recommendation. He’s received multiple warnings and reprimands since his hiring in 2006 and is on probation from the state’s Education Practices Commission. The vote is today. If he’s fired, Delucia said, he will appeal to a state administrative law judge. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: When we finally get past the current epidemic, the previous one of bullying, homophobia and depression will still be there waiting for students. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. The students at Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto have dealt with turmoil for far too long. If NFL player Brian Poole were to take over, hopefully the transition would lend itself to a stable learning environment without distractions and send a positive message to students. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sixty percent of child-care centers have closed during the coronavirus crisis, putting an essential business at risk and potentially crippling the state’s economic recovery. Mark Wilson and David Lawrence Jr., Florida Politics.

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