Universities opening in fall, religious exemptions for vaccinations hit peak, abuse concerns and more

Universities opening in fall: The state’s 12 public universities will open for students in the fall, state education leaders announced on Monday. A task force will present recommendations May 28 to the Florida Board of Governors on what the universities need to do to reopen safely, and the schools will report back to the board June 23 with specific plans. Board chair Syd Kitson said the planning will be “informed by science and medical professionals,” with a priority on student safety against the coronavirus pandemic. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. How to maintain social distancing, who wears masks, and how to do temperature screenings and testing are among the many things that must be decided before a decision is made on reopening K-12 schools. Education Dive.

Vaccination exemptions up: The percentages of Florida kindergarten and 7th-graders who have used religious exemptions from vaccination requirements have hit all-time highs, according to a report from the Florida Department of Health. The opt-out percentage for kindergarten students was 3 percent for the 2019-2020 school year, and 1.9 percent for 7th-graders. Florida’s goal is to have 95 percent of students vaccinated. The 7th-grade percentage was 96.1, but for kindergarten it was just 93.5. Private school students used religious exemptions at a higher rate than their public school counterparts: for kindergarten, the private school opt-out percentage was 5.2, while the public schools were at 2.7 percent. The exemption rate for 7th-graders in private schools was 3.4 percent, but just 1.8 percent for public schools. News Service of Florida.

Unreported maltreatment: An estimated 200,000 child maltreatment cases have gone unreported in the United States since schools have been closed because of the pandemic, according to a new study that focused on Florida schools. Researchers Ezra Goldstein of Florida State University, Jason Baron of the University of Michigan and Cullen Wallace of Georgia State University said the estimates are “a hidden cost of school shutdowns. … When schools are not in session, whether for regularly scheduled breaks or in response to catastrophes, cases of child maltreatment are more likely to go unnoticed and unreported.” They noted that Florida reported 15,000 fewer cases in March and April, which is 25 percent below the normal rate. Assuming a similar decline throughout the country would put the total number of unreported cases at more than 200,000. Experts say 10 to 20 percent of maltreatment accusations made in schools are substantiated. Chalkbeat.

Reopening Florida: Phase 1 of the reopening of Florida businesses is in full swing, with gyms reopened, restaurants and stores increasing capacity to 50 percent and activity resuming in south Florida, and Gov. Ron DeSantis is already looking ahead to getting theme parks back in business. He also continued his pitch for sports teams at all levels and from around the country to get back in action. “We believe getting sports back online is important for the nation’s mojo,” he said Monday in Orlando. “We want to make sure we’re doing our part here in Florida to be able to do it.” DeSantis made no mention of K-12 schools or when Phase 2 of the reopening might begin. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press.

Graduation plans: Graduating Lake County high school seniors will be able to walk across a stage to get their diplomas while their families watch from cars in drive-in theater like settings, and some schools will then hold car parades to celebrate. “While I know that this is not the ceremony that any of us had hoped for, we’ve tried to think outside of the box and get creative to find a way to make sure every graduate has the opportunity to walk across the stage and their families able to share the experience with them,” said Superintendent Diane Kornegay. WKMG. Daily Commercial. While all St. Johns County high schools are conducting virtual graduation ceremonies, principals have the option of holding other ceremonies too. So far, only St. Augustine High School is taking advantage of the option and is planning an in-person commencement June 17 at the school stadium. Students are permitted four tickets each, and social-distancing guidelines will be observed. WJXT.

More on the coronavirus: Summer camps put on by the Broward County School District have been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district is trying to develop an online summer camp program. Sun Sentinel. Students at Lake Highland Preparatory School are offering to help younger students with their homework. The free service is called Orlando Student Tutoring, and about 50 students are taking of the help through teleconferencing. Orlando Sentinel.

Superintendent retiring: Martin County Superintendent Laurie Gaylord announced on Monday that she’s retiring in November. Gaylord was elected superintendent in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. In 2018, county voters approved a switch to an appointed superintendent. The school board has just begun the search for her replacement. “I felt that it was timely, honest and transparent to announce my retirement at this time for the school board to have the opportunity to attract as many qualified candidates as possible in their search for the next superintendent,” she said. TCPalm. WPEC.

Principals’ exodus: More than 40 percent of U.S. middle and high school principals plan to leave their jobs for other schools or change careers, according to a study of 424 principals from 26 states by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Learning Policy Institute. Working conditions and lack of support from district administrators were cited as the main factors. “Each year, it gets harder and harder as we get our hands tied with legislation, class size, not having the raises and not getting backed with our retirement and things,” said Eric Basilo, an administrator at Sanford Middle School and the president-elect of the Florida Association of School Administrators. WJXT.

Principal honored: Rafael Villalobos of John A. Ferguson Senior High has been named the Miami-Dade County School District’s 2020 principal of the year. WSVN.

Mentoring grant: The Bay County School District has received a $440,000 grant from the Florida Disaster Fund to expand the Elevate Bay mentoring program. The grant will help pay for 30 liaisons, one for every school, who will help recruit volunteers for the program, as well as for computers and other equipment. The program began with a goal of getting 1,000 mentors, but has fewer than half that now. Panama City News Herald. WMBB. WJHG.

Parkland monitor’s appeal: Andrew Medina, the campus monitor who first saw and followed the accused gunman on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus on Feb. 14, 2018, but did not immediately call for help, is asking an appeals court to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit brought against him by the parents of one of the 17 people who were murdered. Medina followed Nikolas Cruz to a building, saw him enter, then heard gunshots and drove away in his golf cart to get school resource officer Scot Peterson. News Service of Florida.

NCAA loses appeal: An appeals court has ruled that the NCAA’s rules prohibiting compensation for athletes are anti-competitive, and that a lower court’s suggested remedy of graduate school scholarships, study abroad opportunities, tutoring and equipment as compensation is reasonable. The NCAA is considering whether to appeal further. The decision has no bearing on pending laws, and proposed NCAA rules changes, on compensating athletes for the use of their names, images or likenesses. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Here’s a question for those advocating a ban on home-schooling: Can they prove that public schooling delivers better academic results, strengthens democratic values and provides a surer guarantee against abuse than home-schooling? Matthew H. Lee, Angela R. Watson and Patrick J. Wolf, redefinED.

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