Pondering a path to reopening schools, hiring and spending freeze, summer schools and more

On schools reopening: As school districts try to wrap up the school year as strongly as possible given the working conditions, the rush has begun to make decisions about the next school year. How are schools going to reopen, when, and under what circumstances? This week, the Florida Board of Education will consider recommendations from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. But the standard protocols for society — such as social distancing and limiting personal contact — are going to be difficult to achieve in schools. So educators are asking the state to allow them the flexibility to make decisions based on local needs, even if they don’t quite meet the existing rules. Tampa Bay Times. WPEC. For many teachers, the decision to return to work when schools reopen is not going to be an easy one. Many are older and have underlying health issues that put them at a higher risk of severe and potentially deadly consequences if they contract the virus. “I can’t chance my health to go back,” said Belinda Mckinney-Childrey, a teacher in Chicago who is almost 62 and has high blood pressure. “I love my job, I love what I do, but when push comes to shove, I think the majority of us will be like ‘I think we’re going to retire.’ ” Chalkbeat. Education Week. Decisions other countries are making about how to reopen schools. Education Week.

Hiring, spending freeze: Palm Beach County school officials anticipate significant budget cuts because of the coronavirus pandemic, and have instituted a freeze on all spending and hiring. State sales tax collections were down 25 percent in March, and April is expected to be worse. “The dramatic screeching halt to the economy is really unprecedented,” said the district’s chief financial officer, Mike Burke. “At this point everything is frozen and we’re just trying to get a better read.” He said the extent of the damage to the district hinges on three things: how much sales tax collections drop, whether Congress provides more aid, and how much the state takes out of its reserves. Palm Beach Post.

Summer school: Summer school will be held online and all public school summer camps have been canceled, Palm Beach County school officials have announced. “These two decisions are understandably disappointing for our students and families,” Superintendent Donald Fennoy wrote in an email to parents. “I was holding out hope that both programs would continue as normal this summer, but that is just not possible in the midst of this pandemic.” Having summer classes online renews worries of equity. “I get why they did it,” said Suncoast High physics teacher Jeff Laufer, “but the students who need summer school are the ones least likely to benefit at all from online learning.” Palm Beach Post. WPTV. Pinellas County also will conduct its summer school online, Superintendent Michael Grego announced. He said that students who borrowed district laptops for remote learning can keep them for now, and that the district has had a team of medical professionals tour campuses to advise on what’s needed to reopen schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Graduation plans: Graduating seniors at Okaloosa County high schools will be able to walk across a stage and receive a diploma, Superintendent Marcus Chambers has announced. The ceremonies are scheduled July 14-18, and will be adjusted to comply with social distance guidelines in place then. They’ll also be livestreamed so those who can’t attend can watch. Northwest Florida Daily News. The three Martin County high schools will hold in-person graduation ceremonies July 22-24, with each starting at 9 a.m. Martin County High goes first on Wednesday, July 22, followed by Jensen Beach High on July 23 and South Fork High on July 24. TCPalm. It took a petition signed by thousands of people, but the Manatee County School District is moving the graduation ceremony for Manatee High School to Hawkins Stadium on July 28 from 8-10 p.m., where it’s traditionally been held. The ceremony had been scheduled at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Bradenton Herald. WFLA.

Private school worries: The coronavirus drag on Florida’s private schools continues. About 73 percent of the 634 schools that responded to a survey said enrollment is declining, while 73 percent of parents whose children don’t use state scholarships said they may not be able to pay the tuition next year and 58 percent of school officials said they’re worried about staying open. The results from the survey by Step Up For Students, which helps administer several state scholarships and hosts this blog, are similar to a national survey conducted by EdChoice. redefinED.

AP testing begins: Advanced Placement testing begins today and continues through May 22. The tests are normally taken at schools and monitored. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the tests will be taken from home this year, and students will be permitted to use their books and notes. Each exam will last about 45 minutes instead of the 3 hours or so in previous years. WFTV. WINK.

More on the coronavirus: Florida’s teachers are under the gun during remote learning and are feeling the strain, according to a survey by the Florida Education Association. They’re worried about their students falling further behind, and they’re concerned about their jobs and their families. Next, the union and the Florida Department of Education will survey parents. Orlando Sentinel. Many poor Brevard County families rely on the schools to keep their children from becoming malnourished. While the district has handed out more than 1 million meals at two-dozen schools in the past two months, hundreds of families can’t get to a school because they don’t have for gas for their car or don’t have a car at all. So the district has begun meal deliveries. Florida Today. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times. WSVN.

Charter schools: The nonprofit Panama City Marine Institute-AMIkids has applied to the Bay County School Board for a contract to act as a charter school for about 150 students, starting in the fall. The institute began working with at-risk teens in 1974. The new iteration would offer students the chance to earn boating and drone pilot licenses, culinary and construction certifications and open water diving certification. Panama City News Herald.

School loses certification: Boynton Beach Community High School has lost its certification for its aviation maintenance technical program. Federal Aviation Administration officials said the school failed to include the required 750 hours of instruction, didn’t maintain a list of specialized instructors, couldn’t show it gave the appropriate tests to students, and failed to maintain records for attendance and transcripts, among other things. Federal Aviation Administration.

Superintendent search: Leslie Brown, the chief portfolio services officer for the Broward County School District, is one of five finalists for the job as superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish. The school board will meet May 21 to cut the field to two or three finalists. Baton Rouge Advocate.

School-related elections: Karen Brill, a Palm Beach County School Board member since 2010, has dropped out of the race for a county commission seat and will remain on the school board through her term that ends in November 2022. Palm Beach Post.

Employees and the law: A Polk County teacher was arrested last week and charged with driving under the influence. Deputies said Robin Eileen Ramos, 40, a 5th-grade teacher at Socrum Loop Elementary, told them she had taken a Xanax. Patch.

Opinions on schools: K-12 choice programs began as a proposal by a Nobel Prize-winning economist to improve K-12 outcomes. Could other mechanisms devised by economists in other policy areas, such as cap-and-trade policies to reduce air pollution, also improve K-12 outcomes? The answer might be yes in theory, but in practice, probably not. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. To all those parents who are their children’s teachers during the pandemic, don’t simply give an assignment with instructions before letting the learners fend for themselves. Actually demonstrate what you want them to do by modeling the recitation, the behavior, or the problem solving with an actual example. It makes a big difference, not just for today, but potentially for the rest of their lives. David McGrath, Fort Myers News-Press. A federal aid package for K-12 schools of more than $100 billion is likely needed to continue providing the opportunity for children to become scientists, engineers and health care professionals. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: One hundred and thirty-one Manatee County high school seniors were honored with Golden Herald awards for their community service. Bradenton Herald. Forty-four public schools, school districts and nonprofit organizations have been presented with more than $300,000 in distance learning mini-grants from the the state. Florida Department of Education. Five Leon County students have gotten perfect 36 scores on the ACT. Fewer than 1 percent of American students achieved that, ACT officials said. The average score is 20.7. Tallahassee Democrat.

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