Districts continue to delay start dates, fall sports also get pushed back, pandemic ‘pods’ trend and more

Reopening plans: Florida school boards are considering district reopening plans, which must be submitted to the Florida Department of Education by July 31 for approval. Here are the latest developments:

Hillsborough County: Schools won’t start before Aug. 24, the school board decided Thursday. But members also agreed to meet again Aug. 6 to re-evaluate whether the reopening plan is still viable under the coronavirus conditions at that time or if it needs to be adjusted. But in a 4-3 vote, the board rejected a proposal to use online learning only for the first nine weeks of the school year. The district’s reopening plan calls for students and staff to wear face masks, and students can choose in-person or online learning options. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WFLA. WFTS. WTSP.

Orange County: The district should have a medical advisory committee to monitor school safety during the pandemic and help district officials make decisions on setting protocols, school board members said Thursday. Next week the board will consider creating such a group, which could include pediatricians, epidemiologists and school nurses. Orlando Sentinel.

Duval County: School board members approved Superintendent Diana Greene’s reopening plan that delays the first day of school for 10 days, to Aug. 20. It also offers in-person instruction only for elementary school students until Sept. 17, when middle and high school students would could begin attending classes in-person. The plan was structured around the expected influx of visitors for the Republican National Convention. But as the board was voting, President Trump announced that the portion of the convention scheduled for Jacksonville was canceled because of the surge in coronavirus cases. It’s not clear if Trump’s decision will affect the reopening plan. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV.

Lee County: Superintendent Greg Adkins’ recommendation to delay the start of schools from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31 was unanimously approved Thursday by the school board. The last day of school for students is also moving, to June 17. Adkins said all students and employees will be required to wear masks on school grounds unless they have a medical exemption. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WBBH. WZVN.

Seminole County: Teachers are being asked by the district whether they want to return to classrooms or teach remotely, and to reveal whether the request is for ADA reasons, health conditions or if they have someone in their home who is susceptible to contracting the coronavirus. District officials said they can’t guarantee every teacher will get what she or he wants, but that they will accommodate as many as possible. WFTV.

Manatee County: Manatee Technical College will resume classes Aug. 6 with students alternating daily between online and in-person classes. Students will be required to wear masks, observe social distancing and have their temperatures checked every time they enter a building. Bradenton Herald. The district is proposing a  budget of $880.3 million, about 3.5 percent more than last year’s. A hearing is set Tuesday. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota County: The proposed district budget for the fiscal year is $503 million, 5.5 percent more than last year’s, but school board members are already looking for potential cuts in case revenues don’t match projections. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion County: Students and staff will be required to wear face masks when social distancing isn’t possible, said deputy superintendent Mark Vianello. He also said the health clinic will help decide when certain classrooms and buses need to be shut down for a day and thoroughly cleaned. WKMG.

Leon County: Superintendent Rocky Hanna had already delayed the start of schools from Aug. 10 to Aug. 19, and now he’s recommending that the school board further delay the first day until Aug. 24. He said the change would give teachers two full weeks to prepare for the reopening. The board meets next Tuesday. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV. WFSU.

Santa Rosa County: School board members approved the addition of a virtual learning option for students who don’t want to go back into classrooms when schools reopen. That option has students remotely following the regular classes and schedule in real time. The board meets again next week to decide whether students will be required to wear masks, and whether to approve a proposal to move the first day from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24.  Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. A slight property tax increase for capital projects is being consider by the school board as part of its proposed budget. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay County: Superintendent Bill Husfelt said he’s asking the school board to approve a change in the first day of school from Aug. 11 to Aug. 20. He said teachers need more time to prepare, and the delay would give parents a few more days to choose a form of learning for their children. The district is now offering a virtual option that lets students follow their regular class schedule and teachers through a live feed, and gives students the chance to ask questions. Panama City News Herald. The board of directors of the Rising Leaders Academy charter school in Panama City approved a delay in the start of the school year to Aug. 24. WJHG.

Nassau County: School board members approved a delay of two weeks in the reopening of schools, from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24, a requirement that all children over the age of 6 wear masks in schools, and three learning options: in-person, school-based distance learning or enrollment in virtual school. WJXT. WJAX.

Walton County: The first day of school has been delayed from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17 to give teachers more time for training and preparing for the return of students. About 73 percent of parents chose the in-person instruction over remote learning, according to the district’s survey. WMBB. WJHG.

Okeechobee County: School board members approved Superintendent Ken Kenworthy’s recommendation to delay the start of school from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17 to give teachers more time to prepare. Face masks must be worn for at least the first nine weeks of school, and students have three learning options: in-person, online or a blended version as a transition to put students back in the classroom full time. WPTV. WPEC.

Gulf County: Schools will start Aug. 17, instead of Aug. 10 as scheduled. The delay will help teachers prepare for teaching remote learners, and for the district to stockpile supplies and work on air-conditioning systems repairs, said Superintendent Jim Norton. WMBB. Port St. Joe Star.

Franklin County: Superintendent Traci Yoder has recommended that the start of the school year be moved from Aug. 10 to Aug. 14. She said the district needs more to train teachers on safety protocols. When schools do reopen, students will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks. WCTV. Apalachicola Times.

District reopening plans: Florida district school reopening plans are being compiled on a University of Florida database. About a quarter of the 67 plans have not been publicly released. Gainesville Sun.

Palm Beach Catholic schools: The Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach announced Thursday that its schools in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast will start Aug. 24 instead of the previously scheduled Aug. 10. About half the parents surveyed wanted a later start, and Diocese officials said teachers need the time for training. Students can choose in-person or virtual learning. WPTV. WPEC.

St. Johns Catholic schools: Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Augustine will start Aug. 19 instead of the previously scheduled Aug. 10. Deacon Scott Conway, the superintendent, said the schools are waiting on shipments of sanitizing products and devices to upgrade technology. St. Augustine Record.

College, universities: Florida colleges and universities are also working on reopening plans. Here’s a list of some of their plans, with start dates. Tallahassee Democrat.

FHSAA rescinds start date: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors has overturned the decision it made Monday and is now postponing the start of all fall sports until at least Aug. 24, with seasons unlikely to begin before mid-September. Board members said 359 of the 396 public schools that responded to a survey indicated they would not start sports as scheduled July 27, and at least one district, Miami-Dade, had threatened to withdraw from the organization because of the “inequities and limitations” of the earlier start date. The board will meet again Aug. 17 to decide whether to proceed with the Aug. 24 date or change it. Until then, summer conditioning workouts can continue. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Lakeland Ledger. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Daytona Beach News-Journal. St. Augustine Record. WPLG. WKMG. WTXL.

Pandemic ‘pods’ emerging: A new twist in home-schooling is trending across America. It’s called “pandemic pods,” which is when parents or groups of parents who don’t like the learning options they have from their school districts instead decide to hire a private teacher to educate their children in the home. The Washington Post called pandemic pods “the 2020 version of the one-room schoolhouse, privately funded,” and some experts say they’re a grassroots response to a crisis. redefinED. WPEC.

DeSantis, Trump weigh in: Gov. Ron DeSantis continued his tour promoting the full reopening of schools, telling a Fox & Friends audience on Thursday that “a lot of teachers in Florida are itching to get back.” He was responding to a question about the lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association against the state’s order that school classrooms must be reopened to students five days a week. The FEA took exception to DeSantis’ characterization, and released a survey that shows three out of four teachers don’t believe reopening schools can be done safely in August. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Meanwhile, President Trump took a step back from his demand that all schools open, saying that some may need to delay reopening for a few weeks because of the surging number of coronavirus cases. Associated Press. NPR. Sixty-two percent of Floridians believe it’s not safe to send children back to school, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Only 37 percent approve of DeSantis’ handling of school reopenings, while 56 percent disapprove. Sun Sentinel. Florida Politics.

More on the coronavirus: Robert Shackelford, a social studies teacher and coach at Sarasota High School, died this week of complications from the coronavirus. He was 61. WTVT. WFLA. WWSB. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues its revised guidelines to safely reopen schools. The conclusion: with proper precautions, schools should reopen because the “best available evidence from countries that have opened schools indicates that COVID-19 poses low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggests that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.” WPTV. Ninety-one percent of parents of color say they’re worried that their child or another family member will contract the coronavirus if schools are reopened, while just 55 percent of white parents feel that way, according to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Forbes. Nearly 17 million U.S. students from 8.4 millions households don’t have home Internet access, according to a report by Future Ready Schools in partnership with the National Urban League, UnidosUS and the National Indian Education Association. More than half of those students live in households with incomes under $50,000 a year, and 36 percent live in rural areas. Education Dive.

School elections: The three candidates in the race for the District 7 seat on the Orange County School Board talk about their priorities, qualifications and the challenges of schools to operate during the pandemic. Orlando Sentinel. School safety and improving community involvement in schools are among the goals of the three candidates for the District 2 seat on the St. Lucie County School Board. TCPalm. Candidates for the district 2 and 3 seats on the Sarasota County School Board talked about reopening schools, closing the achievement gap and more at an online debate this week. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher, aide fired: Broward County School Board members have approved the firings of a teacher and aide for physically abusing and swearing at kindergarten students with autism in 2019. Tahisha-Ann Brown, a teacher at Pasadena Lake Elementary, and Joyce Bradley, a teacher’s aide in Brown’s class, were officially terminated this week. The pair were not arrested or charged, but several lawsuits against the district have been filed. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The flaw in the children-must-return-to-schools-despite-the-pandemic argument is that to have children in classrooms, there must be teachers and many other staff members, from janitors to bus drivers. Without extensive and expensive safety measures, all those adults could be at high risk. Sun Sentinel. Teachers’ voices have been silenced in the back-to-school choice. Todd Palmer, Orlando Sentinel. We mustn’t treat our children, teachers, staff and families as lab rats in a mega experiment. We know enough to know that the coronavirus is highly transmissible, causes many deaths, and damages organs and organ systems. DeAnna Dowdle, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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