Superintendents release school reopening plan, colleges working on it, teacher renewals and more

Superintendents’ reopening plan: Testing students for learning losses as well as the coronavirus must be in place in order for Florida’s K-12 schools to safely open in the fall, according to a plan issued by an organization representing the state’s school superintendents. Traditional classroom teaching will be “near impossible” because of guidelines on social distancing and group gatherings, according to the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. So it is asking the Department of Education to create a pandemic response team to provide guidance for local districts, and for protective gear, screening supplies, and money for expanded summer programs and services, laptops and Internet access. The recommendations will be presented to the Florida Board of Education next Wednesday. Politico Florida. Eric Hall, chancellor for innovation for the DOE, said he isn’t ruling out opening the K-12 school system for summer programs. “We’re actually surveying them right now to get a good read on how programs out there want to operate in the summer, what does that look like?” Hall said. Spectrum 13. Guidelines for reopening schools have recently been issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group recommends limiting student interactions, testing students and staff for the coronavirus, reducing school hours and being prepared to close if the virus rebounds. WJAX. Centers for Disease Control recommendations on how to reopen schools and the economy were reportedly rejected by the White House for being “overly prescriptive,” and are being revised. New York Times. Associated Press.

Universities also working on it: Florida’s colleges and universities are trying to finalize their plans on reopening in the fall, but may be months away from making those decisions. Guidelines on social distancing and large gatherings will limit class sizes, officials said, which likely means some online classes will continue. Face masks may be required, and testing for the virus is likely to expand significantly. The uncertainty of what’s ahead is creating anxiety for students and staff. News Service of Florida. WFSU.

More on federal aid: U.S. House Democrats are expected to make a strong push for more money for schools in the next federal coronavirus relief package. Education advocates have warned Congress that without further assistance for K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hundreds of thousands of teachers may be laid off. Politico. The American Federation of Teachers and a national school superintendents association are encouraging school districts to ignore guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on how to distribute coronavirus relief aid. The department wants to use a formula that would direct more money to private schools and less to low-income public ones. “The guidance funnels more money to private schools and undercuts the aid that goes to the students who need it most,” read a joint statement from the AFT and superintendents. “Fortunately, school districts can — and should — ignore this guidance, which flouts what Congress intended to do with the CARES Act.” Chalkbeat.

Graduation plans: High school seniors at Marion County schools will be honored at in-person graduation ceremonies June 12-22. The backup dates are July 13-21. Each student will receive two tickets for family members, unless social distancing guidelines are relaxed before the ceremonies. All ceremonies will be streamed on the Internet and shown on the district’s TV station and its YouTube channel. Ocala Star-Banner. Polk County schools will have in-person graduation ceremonies June 6-20 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, district officials have announced. Attendance will be limited, masks required, social distancing guidelines followed, and no handshakes. WTVT.

Teacher job renewals: Concerned about the effect the coronavirus pandemic will have on its budget, Seminole County school officials are holding off on letting teachers know if their annual contracts are being renewed. The district is waiting until the end of this month to make those decisions. Osceola, Lake and Sumter school districts also have deadlines approaching to notify teachers. Other districts have already started notifying teachers. They include Brevard, Orange, Volusia, Hillsborough and Pinellas. Spectrum 13 News. Bay News 9.

More on the coronavirus: For many teachers and students in rural areas of Florida, spotty or limited Internet service makes online education an unreliable alternative to simply distributing paper materials. redefinED. Many students who successfully juggled jobs and school are now struggling with that balance during the pandemic because they’re working for essential businesses and being asked to work more hours. Tampa Bay Times. The pandemic has forced the cancellation of a banquet to honor the turnaround students of the year in Pasco County, so the district sent teams to the homes of each of the 35 students who were honored. Tampa Bay Times. The coronavirus outbreak has devastated after-school programs around the country, forcing them to adapt to meet the needs of students. Education Week.

Insurance shortfall: Polk County school officials said they expect to close the $17 million gap between insurance premiums and claims from 2019 sometime this year. Deductibles and co-pays were raised, the prescription drug plan was adjusted and the increased use of the district’s two free health clinics have trimmed the deficit significantly. Patch.

Schools and the census: Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River school officials are making a public push for residents of their counties to complete their census forms. Title I and Head Start are among the programs that receive federal funding based on the census. “Given all the Title I schools in our district and the different programs we have, it’s so important to get a correct count,” said Cristen Maddux, a spokeswoman for the Indian River County School District. TCPalm.

Personnel moves: Craig Maniglia has been hired as the Sarasota County School District’s new director of communications. He had run internal communications for the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. He’ll make $109,500 a year, and starts Monday. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Love for educators: Florida educators got a little extra recognition this week from celebrities. Melissa Lime, assistant principal at Freedom Crossing Academy in St. Johns County, got a phone call from First Lady Melania Trump thanking her for her work in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week. Actor Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady in The Brady Bunch TV show, joined with athletes Derrick Brooks and Brandi Chastain to thank Manatee County teachers in a video. St. Augustine Record. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

New fields and tracks: All of the Sarasota County School District high school football fields and tracks around them will be upgraded over the next five years, starting with Riverview High this summer. The fields will be replaced with artificial turf, and the tracks will be replaced with a rubberized surface. Charlotte Sun.

Educators and the law: A St. Johns County music teacher has been arrested in Pasco County and accused of having sex with a 16-year-old. Deputies said Jermaine Reynolds, 35, who has been the band director at Ponte Vedra High School since 2016, is charged with four counts of sexual battery and four counts of traveling to meet a minor for sex. School officials said Reynolds has resigned from his job. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: The Miami-Dade and Orange County school districts were among those across the United States that acted quickly and decisively when the coronavirus outbreak forced the closure of schools. Their actions should be studied more closely to inform efforts to learn lessons from the current crisis and build a more resilient school system. The 74. We need a plan to ensure students can return safely to classes and their parents to work, but also to help students make up for learning losses. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun. After getting an extra $13.5 billion in March’s “Phase 3” stimulus bill,the education lobby is now asking Congress for another $175 billion as it ponders a Phase 4 bill. With that kind of money on the line, a film on school fraud should be considered essential viewing. Jonathan Butcher, redefinED. So many things seemed unpredictable about the current pandemic. We should not, however, be surprised that there’s no way to assess what’s become of a system of state-supported private schools that has always lacked sufficient guardrails, oversight and transparency. Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: A virtual banquet was held Thursday night to honor the 199 “super scholars” in the Orange County School District. Super scholars are those seniors who have been accepted into a top 20 college or university, according to the U.S. News & World Report rankings, or one of the premier military academies. Orlando Sentinel.

 

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