DOE says waivers unnecessary, reopening lawsuit, budgets, ‘apocalyptic’ reopening video and more

School reopening plans: Florida school boards are still considering details of district reopening plans, and the state Department of Education has approved two more: Baker and Sumter. All district plans are due to the DOE today. Here are the latest developments, as well as other district news:

Broward: The school district has rescinded guidance that employees should not share their coronavirus status with other people. Earlier in the week, school safety chief Brian Katz issued a memo that told employees to “refrain from publicizing their own status in the workplace or on social media.” The memo was widely criticized, and Katz reissued it Thursday after deleting that line. District officials said the original memo had been “misinterpreted.” Sun Sentinel.

Orange: A letter sent to the district from a DOE attorney seemed to contradict that state’s executive order that schools must be open five days a week for in-person learning in August. “The decision to open or close a traditional public school in Orange County rests with the School Board of Orange County. As a result, the waiver you have requested is unnecessary,” wrote attorney David Wells. DOE spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said there was no contradiction. “The governor has said over and over again that it schools reopening is a local decision.” The district’s reopening plan was approved this week by the DOE. Orlando Sentinel. The school district’s teachers union has filed a lawsuit against the district, charging that its plans to reopen schools are unsafe, that it failed to share information about coronavirus outbreaks among staff, refused to negotiate with employees over reopening details, and has declined to answer public information requests. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. WKMG. WOFL. WMFE.

Palm Beach: School board members have tentatively approved a $3.8 billion budget that projects an increase of 1.52 percent in property tax collections despite a slight drop in millage rates, and contains raises for teachers and for new school construction despite expectations that spending on the coronavirus will total about $22 million. But chief financial officer Mike Burke warned, “If the current economic conditions persist, the state’s going to run out of money. The school district is going to feel the impact of that.” Palm Beach Post.

Brevard: School board members voted 3-2 on Thursday to require students, staff and visitors to wear face masks on campuses when schools reopen. But they couldn’t agree on a set of metrics to use to determine if schools should reopen in August. Florida Today. WKMG. Some people who attended the graduations of Palm Bay Magnet High School and Brevard Virtual School last weekend have tested positive for coronavirus, and up to 1,200 others who also attended are being asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Florida Today. WKMG.

Osceola: Walk-through temperature scanners have been installed in four district schools, thanks to a donation from a hotel owner, and the district is buying 14 more. WKMG.

Volusia: A $944 million budget was tentatively approved by the school board this week that will increase property tax collections by about $7 million, but the district still anticipates spending more than $11 million from its reserves to help pay coronavirus expenses and cover enrollment losses. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: A promotional video showing what the school reopening will look like has drawn criticism from many parents for its “apocalyptic” feel. One said the video is like “an M. Night. Shyamalan movie.” In the video, which has gone viral after being posted on TikTok, shows teachers in shields, masks and lab coats, students with masks, and the ways students will be distanced from each other in classes and at lunch. BuzzFeed. School board members will be asked at Tuesday’s meeting to consider buying rapid response coronavirus testing kits. WWSB.

Lake: More than half of the parents of 39,278 county students have chosen remote learning for the school year that begins Aug. 24, according to district officials. Forty-two percent selected in-person instruction. About 26 percent chose the Lake Live virtual, in which a student stays enrolled in his or her chosen schools and remotely watches classes on a normal school schedule. Twenty-four percent picked virtual school, and 7 percent chose the modified program that has English and math classes in person and other courses online. WKMG. Daily Commercial. A Lake County high school will offer classes in American Sign Language this fall in grades 6-12. School board members recently approved the addition to the Lake Minneola High School curriculum. Daily Commercial.

Escambia: School district officials have released the 2020-2021 academic calendar. The first day for students is Aug. 24, and the last day is June 2. Schools will be closed for Thanksgiving week, from Dec. 21 until Jan. 5 for winter break, and the week of March 15 for spring break. Pensacola News Journal. WKRG.

Alachua: Eighty new buses are being delivered to the district, and officials are working on a plan to put as much space as possible between students riding them. “We’ve looked at our 77-passenger bus and looked to decrease ridership down to 35-50 students on the bus,” said Reginald Thomas, the district’s  transportation director. Students and staff will wear masks, and drivers will also have face shields and surgical gowns. Each bus will have hand sanitizer, which students will be encouraged to use. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: Students will be required to wear face masks or coverings when social distancing isn’t possible, the school board decided Thursday. Exceptions will be made for students with documented medical conditions, and students can remove coverings when they are outside and in other locations where they can stay a safe distance from each other. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: The school board voted this week to provide district teachers with a one-time cost of living payment in September. Fulltime teachers who taught for more than 98 days during the last school year will receive $1,500, and those who taught fewer than 98 days will receive $1,000. Panama City News Herald.

Flagler: School board members tentatively approved a $212 million budget that includes a slightly lower tax rate than last year but will generate an extra $1.5 million for the district. Palm Coast Observer. Daytona Beach News-JournalFlagler County School Board.

Washington: District officials are planning to provide most of the school supplies students will need for the school year that begins Aug. 31. WJHG.

Franklin: Schools reopen Aug. 14 with students either in classrooms or learning remotely from home. “The virtual option, we will provide devices and instruction and we will have our teachers giving hours, where students have office hours in class schedules in-class meetings, to provide support for families at home,” said Superintendent Traci Yoder. WMBB.

Handling coronavirus cases: About half the state’s school districts will require anyone contracting the coronavirus during the school year to quarantine for 10 to 14 days, according to a survey. What happens next is unclear. A few will require the person to have a negative test before being allowed to return, but most will rely on advice from county health departments. About half the state’s 67 districts responded to the survey. WFTS.

Colleges and universities: Eckerd College in St. Petersburg will reopen with more classes held outdoors, and students will return in phases. First-year students would return Aug. 31, second-year students Sept. 28 and the rest on Oct. 26. The term ends Dec. 11. A block schedule is also being introduced, so students can concentrate on one course at a time, which will meet daily but only for a few weeks. Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said this week that he and his wife will be sending their six children back to schools for in-person instruction. Two children are in elementary school, one in middle school, two in high school, and one attends the University of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Here’s how the country’s 15 largest school districts plan to reopen. CNN. School districts around Florida are spending millions for safety supplies and electronics because of the coronavirus. WPTV. WKMG. WJXT. The Florida High School Athletic Association football coaches advisory committee is recommending that football games resume Sept. 11, that a nine-game season be played and that playoffs be held. Orlando Sentinel. In a podcast, educators, politicians and reporters talk about how schools will protect students and teachers from the coronavirus. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay area school districts that have pushed back the start of school are also extending their summer lunch programs so qualified students can still receive free meals. Gradebook. The Volusia school summer meal distribution program has been extended to Aug. 13 at 24 schools. WOFL.

Notable deaths:  John W. Ruffin Jr., a south Florida entrepreneur and philanthropist who helped raise millions of dollars in scholarships for minority students to attend Florida Memorial University and Nova Southeastern University, has died in Coral Springs of prostate cancer. He was 79. Miami Herald.

School elections: Candidates for the District 7 seat on the Pinellas County School Board talk about what the school district is doing well in and areas that need improvement. Tampa Bay Times. The two candidates for the District 3 seat on the Osceola County School Board talk about their backgrounds and priorities if elected. Orlando Sentinel. Candidates for the District 3 and District 4 seats on the Brevard County School Board talked about their qualifications, reopening schools, bullying and more in a forum this week. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: So, who is in charge of safe school reopenings? Who knows? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Leadership was lacking when the Martin County School District and the teachers union couldn’t agree to a delay in the reopening of schools. Gil Smart, TCPalm. We’re starting the new school year full of fear. It didn’t have to be this way. Our country wasted the past few months rather than spending that time really working to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and making sure schools had all the funding, guidelines and supplies needed to reopen safely. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: More than 700 Clay County teachers will be presented with school supplies during a Teacher Appreciation Drive-Thru on Aug. 3 at the Orange Park Mall. WTLV. A south Florida TV’s station’s book drive collected and delivered about 12,000 books to a school in Miami-Dade County and one in Broward. WPLG.

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