Children’s infections and hospitalizations rise, tax revenues fall again, federal aid strings and more

Infections of children soar: The number of children under the age of 17 being diagnosed with the coronavirus cases jumped 34 percent from July 16 to July 24, according to the Florida Department of Health, and the number hospitalized went up 23 percent. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 31,150 children have been diagnosed with the virus, 303 have been hospitalized and five have died. The surge was reported as districts are trying to meet a state order to open school classrooms five days a week starting next month. “I think the data speaks for itself. Yes, there has been increased hospitalization,” said Mobeen Rathore, a Jacksonville pediatric infectious disease specialist. “This is an equal opportunity virus. It doesn’t care about the age.” CNN. WJXT. Florida Politics. More on the number of coronavirus cases among children, by counties. Orange. Manatee. Flagler.

State revenue losses: State economists said on Monday that tax revenues in June were $478.2 million under projections due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That follows declines of $878 million in April and $773 in May, and brings the losses for the fiscal year that ended June 30 to $2.1 billion. Legislative leaders said they don’t plan a special session to deal with the budget issues, since the state has about $4 billion in reserves, stimulus money from the federal government and spending cut out of the budget by Gov. Ron DeSantis. News Service of Florida. Associated Press.

Federal aid strings: Republican senators’ latest coronavirus relief bill proposal would include $70 billion for K-12 schools. But two-thirds of that money would be accessible only to schools that reopen their doors to students this fall. Senators are following the direction of President Trump, who has been threatening for weeks to withhold aid from schools that don’t physically reopen. The bill still has to be negotiated between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate, and Democrats have said they won’t accept those aid restrictions. Chalkbeat. Politico.

Reopening plans: Florida school boards are considering district reopening plans, which must be submitted to the Florida Department of Education by Friday for approval. Here are the latest developments:

Broward County: District employees have been told by the administration not to discuss whether anyone in the district has tested positive for the coronavirus, including themselves. A memo sent to all employees read: “As representatives of the district, employees should also refrain from publicizing their own status in the workplace or on social media.” Anna Fusco, president of the teachers union, said “this is an absurd memo. It’s reckless and wrong.” District officials also released a statement that read: “The intent of the memo is for individuals to maintain the privacy of health-related matters. If an individual wants to share his/her status as it relates to COVID-19, that is a personal matter and should not be done so as a representative of the district.” Sun Sentinel.

Orange County: Aug. 10 will be the first day of classes in the district. All learning will be through the district’s school-based virtual option until Aug. 21, when students whose parents chose in-person learning will return to classrooms. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV. WKMG. WOFL.

Palm Beach County: The costs of coping with the coronavirus are mounting for the district. The school board is being asked this week to approve the purchase of 10,000 Chromebooks for students, at a cost of $5 million, and contracting with T-Mobile and Comcast to provide extra Internet connections for more than $2 million. District staff has also proposed a budget of $8.8 million to train teachers on remote learning, and about $2.3 million for face masks and face shields for students and staff, air filters, hand sanitizers, wipes and enhanced cleanings. Palm Beach Post.

Duval County: Dozens of teachers protested on Monday against the district’s school reopening plan, calling it unsafe for staff and students. They want the school year to start with online-only learning, and want to see eight criteria met before schools reopen for in-person instruction. WJAX. Florida Times-Union. WTLV.

Volusia County: Parents will have until noon Thursday to choose a learning option for their children. There are three methods offered: in-person, virtual, and live-streaming for students who want to follow their teachers and class schedules. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Collier County: On Monday, hundreds of teachers staged a car parade to protest the district’s plan to reopen schools Aug. 19. Another protest will be held today before the school board meeting. Teachers are lobbying the school board to consider an online-only reopening until the number of coronavirus cases declines. Naples Daily News. WFTX.

Lake County: Superintendent Diane Kornegay said every student will get a Chromebook, school times are changing this year because of the pandemic, explained why the district wouldn’t conduct temperature checks and the differences were between two remote learning options during two Q&A sessions with parents through Facebook Live on Monday. WKMG.

St. Johns County: Teachers and the school district have reached a tentative agreement that would allow teachers to take an unpaid leave of absence for the 2020-2021 school year if they don’t feel comfortable in schools. The teachers who take a leave could come back for the 2021-2022 school year at the same salary, but not necessarily the same position. WJXT.

Sarasota County: Two-thirds of the parents who responded to a school district survey said they wanted their children back in classrooms next month. Only about half of the district’s families have responded. An analysis of the results suggests that parents of low-income children are more likely to choose one of the remote learning options. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Leon County: School board chair DeeDee Rasmussen is proposing that the school district appoint a chief medical officer to help make decisions on how to reopen schools safely and provide support for students and staff. “After consulting with multiple professionals in the medical community, I believe we need the consistent expertise of a medical professional, at least for the foreseeable future,” Rasmussen said. Another board member, Rosanne Wood, said schools should not reopen this fall and will ask the board to decide today if it, instead of the state, has the authority to decide. WTXL. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua County: School board members will try again today to decide on a school reopening plan and start date. Teachers want the academic year to start with remote learning, but school officials are concerned that making that decision could cost the district $30 million. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa County: Joe Austin, the dean of students at King Middle School and track coach at Milton High School, has died of coronavirus complications, according to State Rep. Jayer Williamson, R-Pace, who was Austin’s college roommate. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Flagler County: School board members vote today on a school calendar that was revised after the first day of school was moved from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24 because of the pandemic. The revised schedule cuts two days off the Thanksgiving break, two days from the winter break and one day off spring break, and ends the school year June 1. Flagler Live.

Columbia County: For the second time in a week, the Columbia County School District has pushed the start of school to a later date. Last week, the first day moved from Aug. 10 to Aug. 13. Monday, it was moved to Aug. 24. The district is also requiring students and staff wear masks on campus when social distancing isn’t possible, and staggering start times for pre-K and kindergarten students during the first week of school. WJXT.

Holmes County: The school district has announced that the first day of school has been pushed back a week, to Aug. 19. The extra time will allow for teacher training on remote-learning platforms and buying cleaning supplies for schools. WMBB.

More on the coronavirus: The United Faculty of Florida, the state’s largest union for college and university instructors, has called on Gov. DeSantis to order higher education institutions to begin the fall semester with online-only learning. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. More than 1,300 charter schools and their nonprofit or for-profits management companies received between at least $925 million and $2.2 billion from the coronavirus relief bill’s Payroll Protection Program, according to data from the Small Business Administration. It could be more because the SBA provided only ranges of loans, which are forgivable. Washington Post. Vice President Mike Pence, who was in Miami on Monday to announce a vaccine trial at the University of Miami, answered questions about school reopenings. WKMG. School administrators in Hillsborough, Orange, Polk, Pinellas, Pasco, Osceola and Manatee counties are considering creating a fall sports coalition to coordinate schedules. Tampa Bay Times.

District hires new trainers: The Hillsborough County School District has reached an agreement with PT Solutions Holdings LLC to provide certified athletic trainers year-round to all 28 public high schools. The deal, which pays PT Solutions $420,000, will be voted on by the school board today. Two of the three trainer providers that had been supplying the service chose not to continue. Tampa Bay Times.

Renaming a school: An Alachua County School District committee discussed several options for a new name for J.J. Finley Elementary School in Gainesville, but did not reach a consensus. J.J. Finley was a Confederate general during the Civil War, and the committee was formed to find a new name. Among those discussed: Sister Hazel, Joel B. Cannon, Thomas A. Wright and Josiah T. Walls. When a recommendation is reached, it will go to Superintendent Karen Clarke, who will take it to the board Aug. 4 for a vote. Gainesville Sun.

School elections: The three candidates for the District 1 seat on the Pinellas County School Board talk about areas where the school district is doing well in and areas that need improvement. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: For those who’d insist there’s only one responsible option — keeping the schools closed — I’d ask, what about those parents who work? What are they supposed to do? And no, “figure it out” isn’t an answer. The reality is there are no simple solutions for anyone. Gil Smart, TCPalm. “Do it yourself” education is old hat for upper-income Americans. Multiple service-provider education has been the norm for upper quintile Americans for decades. Podding up with others and hiring a teacher during a period when the country seems determined to slip into pandemic dysfunction is an entirely reasonable next step given the circumstances. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. One of President Trump’s arguments for reopening schools is that students don’t catch and spread the coronavirus. “A lot of people are saying they don’t transmit, and we’re looking at that. They don’t catch it easily; they don’t bring it home easily. And if they do catch it, they get better fast,” he said last week. The record does not support that level of confidence in the data. PolitiFact. The question isn’t whether we need high school sports this fall — we do. It’s how we can make them safe, and states like Florida must allow local flexibility, which is critical and necessary for a safe restart. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Today.

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