Report indicates online learning flunked, reopening plans confusion, tightening budgets and more

Report on remote learning: Preliminary results are in, and they cast a grim picture on the effectiveness of online learning for American K-12 students. The NWEA, a nonprofit Oregon-based research company, said students will return to schools in the fall with about 70 percent of the expected learning gains in reading and less than 50 percent in math. Even worse learning loss is expected for minority and low-income children with less access to technology, and for families most affected by the collapse of the economy. The report estimated that 20 to 24 percent of Florida students do not have reliable Internet access. Even in counties that were more prepared for the switch to remote learning, such as Broward, 52 percent of Grade 6-12 students don’t feel motivated to complete distance-learning assignments and about 45 percent never get adult help at home to finish schoolwork, according to a survey. Wall Street Journal. New York Times. Remote learning was a difficult transition for Tampa Bay area students. School officials are trying to apply lessons learned from online education to make summer school more meaningful to students. Tampa Bay Times.

State’s reopening plans: School districts around the state have been working on their plans to reopen in the fall. But they can’t complete those plans without guidance from the state. And with just two months left before the first day, they’re still waiting. The Department of Education has given no indication when that guidance might be coming, though DOE spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said, “Ultimately, the goal is to reopen our school campuses.” She added, “We’re having to think about the entire picture – access to Internet, the school calendar, parents and teachers’ comfort with returning to school campuses. These are all related and cannot be solved in isolation.” The next state Board of Education meeting isn’t until July 15. Florida Phoenix.

Reopening K-12 schools: Sarasota County School Board members said they were caught off-guard by a tentative schools reopening plan announced last week by district officials. Board members Shirley Brown, Jane Goodwin, Eric Robinson and Bridget Ziegler all said they were surprised by the announcement and had not been consulted. “We didn’t have any input on it and that is not the way it is supposed to happen,” Goodwin said. Teachers union officials said they also have not been consulted. The plan offered two options for the return. If social distancing is required, older students would continue with remote learning while younger students would be spread out across elementary, middle and high schools. If social distancing is eased, schools will reopen with new safety precautions. Both plans include the possibility of eliminating the summer break and making it a third semester so students can catch up. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Almost 11,000 parents of Pasco County students said they are most concerned about cleanliness, sanitary practices and hand washing in schools when they reopen, and 4,500 school employees said their top priority is social distancing and limits on campus crowding. Tampa Bay Times. Lake County school officials are asking parents, students and employees what measures they’d like to see in place when schools reopen. WKMG.

District budgets: Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy has reassigned two top Palm Beach County school administrators as a way to save money and “flatten” the district’s leadership hierarchy. Deputy superintendent Keith Oswald will become chief of student services, wellness and equity and not be replaced, and chief of staff Edward Tierney will become the chief of school support and supervision. While no jobs were eliminated, Fennoy said the moves put the district in position to maintain services at a time when several senior staff members are preparing to retire. District officials said it was the first of many cutbacks expected because of the coronavirus. Palm Beach Post. WLRN. The Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River school districts are waiting to hear from the state how the pandemic will affect their budgets for the coming school year. St. Lucie officials are preparing for a cut of 10 to 25 percent in state funding, but the St. Lucie and Indian River districts are optimistic there won’t be a significant impact, thanks to federal aid and the state’s budget reserves. TCPalm.

More on the coronavirus: Okaloosa County high school graduations have been scheduled for July 14-18. The district also announced backup plans in case CDC safety guidelines are still in effect at those times. Northwest Florida Daily News. Monroe County high school graduations have tentatively been scheduled for June 17-19. Key West Citizen. The uncertainty of the future amid the coronavirus pandemic is apparently convincing more high school students to choose colleges closer to home, according to some preliminary data. Among 20 public colleges that provided enrollment information, about half reported increases of in-state freshman confirmations reaching as high as 30 percent. Associated Press. A Miami-Dade County high school teacher explains why she’s retiring even though she wasn’t really prepared to do so. Yahoo. Hillsborough County student-athletes have been given the go-ahead to begin voluntary workouts at schools on June 15, the district has announced. Pinellas and Hernando previously announced the same return date, and Pasco is permitting workouts starting July 1. Tampa Bay Times.

Notable deaths: Thomas Terrell Sessums, a former speaker of the Florida House who was known for his dedication to improving public education, has died at the age of 89. He authored the Florida Education Finance Program to provide equitable funding for school districts, was a past chairman of the former governing board of Florida’s university system, and once chaired the University of Tampa’s board of trustees. In 2003, the Hillsborough County School District named an elementary school in Riverview in his honor. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

Personnel moves: Several administrators have been appointed to new jobs in the St. Johns County School District. Jay Willets, the principal at Pacetti Bay Middle School, has been appointed to lead a yet-unnamed high school that opens in the fall of 2021. Nigel Pillay, the principal at Otis Mason Elementary, will move to St. Johns Technical High. And Cynthia Williams joins the district office as senior director for innovation and equity. St. Augustine Record.

Same school, new name: The Flagler County School Board is being asked to approve a name change for the Flagler Technical Institute, to Flagler Technical College. School officials said the change with help it compete with private, for-profit technical schools that call themselves colleges. Palm Coast Observer.

State football championships: The Florida High School Athletic Association has ended its contract with Daytona Beach to host state championship football games for the five largest classifications after just one year, and is looking for a new location. The FHSAA cited traffic and facility problems for cutting the three-year contract short. Tallahassee remains the site for Class 1A, 2A and 3A finals through 2021. Orlando Sentinel. At its meeting Tuesday, the FHSAA will consider adding girls sand volleyball and girls wrestling to the sports offered in high schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Employees and the law: A Hillsborough County band teacher has been arrested and accused of sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old student. Deputies said Jason Allgair, 35, the band director at Steinbrenner High School, was involved in a sexual relationship with the student from October 2017 to May 2018, on campus and off. Tampa Bay Times.

Prepaid ex-contractor indicted: A former contractor with the Florida Prepaid Program has been indicted after she was accused of using account owners’ information to steal their refund checks. Jamilla Hall, 30, is alleged to have stolen the money between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2018. WTXL.

Opinions on schools: It seems important to resist the pressure to approach back-to-school planning as an exercise in deploying and warehousing children, sequestering them with public health considerations and adult convenience elevated to the highest priorities. Daunting as the challenges will be, learning should remain the highest priority. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. While taking proper precautions for vulnerable students and staffers, school districts must find a way to get the neediest students back into the classroom with an emphasis on remediation for the many who will have fallen behind. Tampa Bay Times. Families will inevitably balk at sending children back to school if they sense that districts have not taken the Covid-19 threat seriously or have done too little to shield students from harm. New York Times. With the economy in freefall, Jacksonville could use a stimulus that produces an immediate positive impact on our city. We have one in the works — the half-cent sales tax proposed for the Duval County school system. Florida Times-Union. The future of K-12 schools isn’t online learning. It’s the community school model. Jeff Bryant, Ed Politics. Dual-enrollment is likely to become an attractive way to cut college costs during a pandemic. But few dual-enrolled students are taking courses that will help them earn degrees in STEM fields. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The future of education should include universal pre-K and an expansion of online classes. Jim Croteau, Tallahassee Democrat. Private schools with students on state-paid vouchers should be required to abide by the same accountability standards as public schools. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

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