Fauci urges caution on schools reopening, more federal aid proposed, summer school and more

Fauci on schools reopening: Caution should be exercised before deciding to reopen schools in the fall, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert testified on Tuesday before a U.S. Senate committee. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the ability to do widespread testing needs to be in place for schools to safely welcome back students, since there won’t be a vaccine or treatment ready by the fall. Fauci rejected Sen. Rand Paul’s suggestion that schools should be reopened because there is evidence that the virus doesn’t seriously affect children. “I think we better be careful we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of the illness, Fauci said, saying a lot about the virus and its effects are unknown. As an example, he noted new cases of children with the virus showing a “very strange inflammatory syndrome.” Fauci also testified that the virus won’t just go away, and that lifting stay-at-home orders too quickly could lead to more suffering, death and even deeper economic damage. “There’s no doubt that even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear,” he said. Associated Press. Los Angeles Times. New York Times. Washington Post. USA Today. Politico. WKMG. The 74. Chalkbeat.

Federal aid: The U.S. House is proposing a $3 trillion-plus coronavirus relief package that includes money for states and cities and another round of $1,200 checks to individuals. But Senate Republicans immediately rejected it, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate won’t even consider the proposal until after Labor Day. “I don’t think we have yet felt the urgency of acting immediately,” he said. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week that he was waiting to see if Congress would be providing more aid for the state before considering the state’s $93.2 billion budget or whether to ask for the Legislature to hold a special session. Sales tax collections, which provide a bulk of the state’s revenue and most of the funding for education and health care, were down 25 percent in March and are expected to plunge even further when April’s numbers are reported later this month. The state budget takes effect July 1. Associated Press. New York Times. Florida Phoenix. What is known — and unknown — about the ways the pandemic will affect Florida’s budget. Tampa Bay Times.

Summer school: An expansion of summer school and an extended 2020-2021 school year are among the proposals that will be considered at today’s meeting of the Florida Board of Education. The board will also discuss recommendations from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents about how to safely reopen schools in the fall. Florida Phoenix. Summer school in Volusia County will be online for most students, but those who attend 16 struggling schools will attend in-person starting July 6. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Martin County’s summer school will be conducted online, and the school district has canceled its summer camps. TCPalm. WPTV.

Graduation plans: Volusia County school officials have postponed May graduation ceremonies until the week of July 6. They’ll be held at the 5,000-seat Ocean Center, but only 2,000 will be permitted to attend in order to comply with CDC guidelines. Ceremonies will be streamed live. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher-district contracts: The sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic generally led to necessarily quick agreements between U.S. school districts and teachers unions on working conditions for online classes. That’s expected to change this summer, as unions have had more time to assess their members’ needs and are more likely to tailor their requests accordingly. One of the concerns of teachers is evaluations, which drive teacher pay. Teachers object to being evaluated for their online performance, and some districts are acknowledging that. In Hillsborough County, evaluations from the 2018-2019 school year will be used to determine performance pay, and if that evaluation was less than effective teachers can appeal. In neighboring Pinellas County, no evaluations will be given. But things are getting contentious in many districts. In Orange County, where district-teacher relations have been strained for years, the union is suing the district for setting attendance procedures without consulting teachers. Union president Wendy Doromal said she’ll continue suing the district if it take actions that aren’t in the interest of teachers, or ignores the advice of health officials about reopening schools. Education Dive.

More on the coronavirus: The Florida Department of Education is launching a survey to gauge public opinion on when parents will feel safe sending their children back to school, and when teachers will be comfortable returning to classrooms. Bay News 9. A 20-person task force will be appointed to discuss how to prepare for the 2020-2021 Leon County school year. WCTV. WTXL. While many U.S. school district have abandoned any attempts to take attendance for online classes, the Broward County School District stands out for its efforts to count every student and include it in deciding grades. “If we’re not tracking their attendance,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie, “then in some ways we are neglecting our responsibility to make sure those kids are safe.” Reuters. Some Pinellas County students and their families got a Church of Scientology pamphlet in the free meal boxes they received from the school district last week. The pamphlets contained general safety tips about the coronavirus “courtesy of Church of Scientology International.” Both school and Scientology officials said the insertion was an error on the part of overzealous volunteers. Tampa Bay Times. Bay County schools will install 4,000 hand sanitizers. WMBB. Missy Slack, a librarian at South Lake Elementary School in Brevard County, is taking her books to students with pop-up “little libraries” in neighborhoods around Titusville. Florida Today. The Taste of Immokalee, an entrepreneurship program for students in Collier County, is keeping its business of selling salsa and salsas alive with the students working remotely. Naples Daily News.

District reorganization: Hillsborough County school Superintendent Addison Davis said he plans to eliminate 129 district jobs to save $7.5 million a year. He also announced that he would be appointing several former colleagues from Clay and Duval counties to top positions by the end of the week, and would create a “Transformational Network” that will target improvement at 29 schools with D or F grades from the state. Davis succeeded Jeff Eakins as superintendent in March, after four years as the elected superintendent in Clay County, just south of Jacksonville. Gradebook.

Board settles with superintendent: Heidi Maier has reached a settlement with the Marion County School Board to leave her job as superintendent four months before her term ends in November. The school board agreed to pay her $110,760, and her lawyer $82,322 for representing her in disputes with the board. Marion County voters decided in 2018 to change from an elected superintendent to an appointed one. Diane Gullett, who was a deputy superintendent in Clark County, Nevada, was recently chosen as the next superintendent, and she’ll now start her job July 1, with Maier exiting July 3. Ocala Star-Banner.

Special ed improvement needed: A year-long, $225,000 review of the Polk County School District’s special education programs concludes that the district still needs to improve how it helps those students, deal with serious behavior issues and communicate with staff and parents. The findings mirror a 2007 study, and were prompted by reports in 2018 and 2019 that the district had no process established to make sure every special education student’s individualized education program was being followed. Lakeland Ledger.

Grades going online: Escambia County School District report cards will be available only online through the parent portal, said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. Final report cards will be posted June 3. The last day of school is May 22. Parents who are unable to access the report cards can call their children’s schools for a paper copy that will be mailed to them. Pensacola News Journal.

Tax renewal vote is November: Indian River County voters will be asked to renew an extra half mill of property tax for schools on the general election ballot in November. District officials and teachers wanted to issue on the primary ballot Aug. 18, but the County Commission voted instead for the general election ballot. Commissioner Peter O’Bryan spoke for the majority by saying, “I think it’s critically important that we have the maximum number of people vote on an issue like this, particularly coming into an economic situation we’re in now.” School board members are asking the commission to reconsider. The tax was first approved in 2016, and is projected to raise up to $11 million a year for teacher retention and recruitment, technology and mental-wellness programs. TCPalm.

Personnel moves: Five administrators are taking new jobs with the Lake County School District. One principal is retiring, one will oversee two schools, one is moving to prepare for the creation of an entirely new school, one will work in the district office and one assistant will be promoted to the top job at her school. Daily Commercial.

Notable deaths: Dieugrand Nazaire, a math teacher at Lake Worth Community High School, has died after contracting the coronavirus. He was 43, and students remembered him for his generosity and kind heart. Sun Sentinel. The Treasure Village Montessori in Islamorada is holding a day of service to honor Pascal Weisberger, a 14-year-old student who was stabbed to death last week. His older brother has been charged. Key West Citizen.

District sued: A former Leon County student is suing the school board for negligence after being sexually assaulted at Lawton Chiles High School in 2016. The girl, who was 16 at the time, said she had sex in the school’s gym with 22-year-old Derrall Howard, a hall monitor and coach. Howard was arrested, found guilty of sexual battery in a position of custodial authority, and sentenced to prison. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: The state’s future depends on the plan to safely reopen schools. Sun Sentinel. Voters see a school tax referendum as an opportunity to render an opinion on how well the schools are being run. It seems logical that putting this question to Sarasota County voters as soon as November — so soon after the turmoil created by former superintendent Todd Bowen’s tenure and ouster — could be asking for a painful rebuke. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A virtual backpack is the solution for educating every child in the future. Jeanne Allen, Forbes.

Student enrichment: The Florida Virtual School is likely to become the “new normal” in the state and beyond. Scott Kent, redefinED. Four Alachua County students are among 2,500 U.S. students to win National Merit scholarships. Gainesville Sun. Timi Adelakun is celebrating graduation as well as two firsts: His 5.6045 is the highest grade point average in the history of South Broward High School, and he’s also the school’s first black valedictorian. WSVN.

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