University reopening plans move forward, teacher of the year finalists, Pasco wins AP award and more

University reopening plan approved: The plan developed by a task force to reopen the state’s 12 public universities in the fall was unanimously approved Thursday by the Florida Board of Governors. Members of the task force developed the blueprint over the past month, and will now send it to each of the universities so they can adapt it to their specific needs. Each school must present its own plan for consideration by the board at its next meeting June 23. The blueprint calls for universities to consider a blend of online classes and in-person sessions that follow social distancing guidelines. “The traditional campus experience for students will be different from past years,” the guidelines read, but it promises that the college experience “will still be positive and rewarding.” Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. WUFT. WJXT. WTXL. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Saint Leo University has announced that it will close its Pasco County campus from the Thanksgiving break until after the first of the year, with students taking classes online for the last two weeks of the semester in December. The University of South Florida announced a similar schedule this week. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher of year finalists: The last two of five finalists for Florida’s teacher of the year award have been named by the Department of Education. They are: Euan Hunter, a chemistry teacher at Ocala Vanguard High School in Marion County; and Syndie White, a 3rd-grade teacher at Elbridge Gale Elementary School in Palm Beach County. The other three, who were announced Wednesday, are Rob Paschall from Orange County, Kristin Wilson from Leon County, and Krista Stanley from Okeechobee County. The winner, who will be announced in July, gets a $15,000 prize and becomes a state ambassador for education for a year. The DOE also honored the 74 teachers of the year in Florida school districts on Twitter. Florida Department of Education. Ocala Star-Banner. Palm Beach Post. Tallahassee Democrat. WPEC. WTXL.

AP honors Pasco district: The Pasco County School District has been selected as the College Board Advanced Placement district of the year among school systems of 50,000 or more students. It’s just the second time in a decade the award, which is given for participation and achievement in AP courses and exams and for making improvements in participation among traditionally underrepresented student populations, has been given to a Florida district. “This is a big deal,” said Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning. A decade ago the district had trouble placing AP programs in some schools. But participation has increased 8.3 percent since 2018, and 60 percent of all AP students passed at least one exam in 2019. The percentage of minority students passing exams has gone up by 2 percentage points a year since 2017. “Pasco is ensuring that a more diverse population of students is earning college credit in a wide variety of AP subjects,” said Trevor Packer, the College Board’s senior vice president for Advanced Placement program and instruction. Tampa Bay Times.

Federal aid: Florida is the only state that has yet to apply for its share of money for K-12 schools from the federal coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress in March. The $2 trillion-plus bill included about $13.2 billion for U.S. schools. After the Polk County School District sent a letter this week to Gov. Ron DeSantis urging him to have the Florida Department of Education apply, the DOE said the application was ready and awaiting the governor’s approval. The deadline of July 1 will be met, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Politico Florida. Lakeland Ledger.

Reopening schools: There are more questions than answers about what Florida’s K-12 schools will look like when they reopen in the fall, but most district officials agree that it will be a different experience for students and staff. Classes could be smaller and staggered, teaching may be in-person and online, strict safety protocols will be in place, and more. Here are reports about what districts around the state are considering. Palm Beach Post. Florida Today. TCPalm. WJXT. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Lakeland Ledger. WFOR. WOFL. WJXT. WINK. WTVT. Tallahassee Democrat. WFTS. The Miami-Dade and Collier county school districts are conducting surveys to find out what parents want to see when schools reopen in the fall. Miami Herald. Naples Daily News.

District wants refund: School resource officers worked less than a third of the time they were contracted to in Marion County schools in April because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the school board is asking for a refund from the three law enforcement agencies that supply the officers. School records show that officers from the sheriff’s department and the Ocala and Belleview police departments worked 2,930 of the 9,680 hours called for in the contract, and the district said it’s due a refund of $250,519. Ocala Star-Banner.

More on the coronavirus: The 12 seniors from the Somerset Island Prep charter school in Key West had a jet ski graduation Tuesday. The students got on a jet ski and rode to an anchored boat, where principal Tom Rompella handed each a diploma. Miami Herald. Miami-Dade County School District report cards will be delayed while district officials evaluate the proposed grades and see if adjustments are needed to make allowances for the challenges students faced during two months of online learning. The school year ends Wednesday. Miami Herald. Learning will continue over the summer for Polk County students, both online and with paper packets delivered to students. Most students will be allowed to keep their electronic devices at least until the fall. Lakeland Ledger. Lake County students will be allowed to keep the Chromebooks they were issued for online learning through the summer, district officials said. The decision will allow students to take part in optional summer learning. Daily Commercial. School districts around the country are counting on summer school to help make up for learning losses from the past two-plus months of online learning. Education Dive.

Investigation extended: A statewide grand jury investigating the 2018 shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland will be extended for as many days as proceedings were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. The grand jury term was scheduled to conclude June 5. News Service of Florida.

District questioned by auditors: For the second time in three years, state auditors are questioning spending by the Lee County School District. This time, an audit said the district improperly used $5.5 million in property taxes for lease-to-own payments on school buses and Internet and network costs. District officials said procedures are now in place to make sure those expenses are paid from the proper accounts. In 2017, an auditor flagged the improper use of $3.9 million in property taxes for cleaning and groundskeeping services. Fort Myers News-Press.

School board elections: Narnike Grant, a substitute teacher and a parent, has announced that she’s a candidate for the District 9 seat on the Broward County School Board. She’s the seventh declared candidate. The current District 9 board member, Robin Bartleman, is running for a seat in the state House of Representatives. Tapinto.

School crossing guard killed: A school crossing for the city of Largo, in Pinellas County, has been stabbed to death and her former boyfriend has been charged with her murder. Hilda Newman Reed, 71, was found in the apartment of former boyfriend, Christopher Keith Gilley, 55. He told police Reed attacked him in the shower so he stabbed her in the neck, then left the scene. Tampa Bay Times.

Ex-teacher’s license suspended: The state has suspended the license of an ex-Palm Beach County Spanish teacher for commenting on the sexual organs of students and another teacher during a class at Boca Raton High School in 2018. Chris Pinot had his teaching license suspended for a year, was fined $750, and must take courses on ethics and bullying. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher resigns over posts: A Hillsborough County teacher who said he was wrongly accused of posting racist comments on Facebook has resigned. Vernon Henderson, 40, a social studies teacher at Gaither High School, said he was hacked and that he does not belong to a members-only Facebook group called the Right Wing Death Squad. School officials are investigating. Tampa Bay Times.

Vandalism arrest: Police have arrested and charged a man for vandalizing Miramar High School last weekend. Matthew Crandall, 21, is accused of burglary and criminal mischief for breaking into the Broward County school and causing $100,000 in damage. WFOR. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Hail to the education market, but empower us to play fairly with those among us who will most treasure this new responsibility to our children. Choice need not be either left or right, but at the center. John E. Coons, redefinED. During all the disruptions of the pandemic it was the right call for Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to eliminate standardized testing this year. But that doesn’t mean it should never return. How can you tell if students are growing academically if you don’t measure it? Bill Hoffman, Tampa Bay Times. I think this crisis shows that disciplines like family and consumer sciences and youth development aren’t relics of the past and never have been. In fact, they may have a greater presence and importance in our post-COVID-19 future. Michael Gutter, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Thirty outstanding high school seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties were honored Thursday with Silver Knight awards for their academic achievements. Miami Herald. Palatka High School senior Colby Mikell has received the 2020 Robert W. Webb Award of Excellence from the Putnam County School District for his accomplishments beyond the classroom. Palatka Daily News.

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