Federal aid for charter schools, test report error goes unexplained, reopenings, virus deaths and more

Aid for charters: A review of federal records has disclosed that 125 Florida charter schools have received at least $50 million in loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Charters are public schools that receive funding from taxpayers. But nonprofits were eligible for PPP funds, and charter schools in Florida are operated by nonprofit companies. The loans can be forgiven if they’re used for their intended purpose of funding payroll and paying mortgage interest, rent and utilities. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that dozens of south Florida private and charter schools received millions of dollars from the PPP. WFTS. Several private schools and public charter schools in Monroe County also received loans through the PPP program. Key West Citizen.

Test report error unexplained: A significant and as-yet unexplained error in the Florida Department of Health’s reporting of coronavirus positive test rates for children has some scientists questioning the reliability of the statistics. On July 10, the department reported that 31.1 percent of children who were tested were positive. On July 17, the rate was reported to be 13.4 percent. The department is blaming a “computer programming error” for the higher rate. Sun Sentinel.

Reopening plans: More than half of Florida’s school districts have delayed the first day of school by up to three weeks, or are seriously considering it. Florida Phoenix. 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:

Miami-Dade County: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he will decide by Wednesday when schools will restart, though he again cautioned that learning in classrooms “may be delayed until the conditions are appropriate.” He said that means a positive test rate of 10 percent or lower in the county. It’s about 20 percent now. “It goes without saying that the best way to teach children is in school,” said Carvalho, but he added that “rushing into a bad decision is far worse than being cautious.” WSVN. WFOR. WPLG.

Hillsborough County: More than 200 coronavirus cases have been reported by the school district. Only five have been students, and district officials said many of the rest were contracted outside the district and brought into schools. School board member Karen Perez, who voted against Superintendent Addison Davis’ reopening plan last week, circulated the information on her Facebook page, saying, “This before we even open our schools to students … now understand why this WILL impact your students and families.” Roughly a third of parents have chosen to return to schools when they open Aug. 24, a third selected one of two virtual options, and the rest have not indicated what their preference is. Gradebook. WFLA.

Orange County: The Orange County School District’s reopening plan has been approved by the Florida Department of Education. DOE. The district has extended the deadline for parents to choose a learning option for their children. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Palm Beach County: When schools reopen, Superintendent Donald Fennoy said students will most likely be required to wear masks when they’re moving around campus. “I think the general rule moving forward will be that they will wear masks,” Fennoy said. “We’re going to err on the side of caution.” He said masks will also be required on buses, but students may be able to remove them in classrooms. The district plans to start the school year with online-only learning Aug. 31, and reopen classrooms only when the county moves to Phase 2 under the state’s reopening guidelines. Palm Beach Post.

Duval County: The cancellation of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville should have no bearing on the school district’s reopening plan, said Superintendent Diana Greene. She cited the convention as one of the reasons to ask the Florida Department of Education for a waiver to the state order that schools must open five days a week for students in August. The Duval plan calls for putting elementary students back in classrooms Aug. 20 and phasing in middle and high school students starting, Sept. 17. If the DOE doesn’t approve its school reopening plan, however, the district risks losing about $70 million in state funding, said district officials. WJXT. An estimated 43,000 district students don’t have the technology and connectivity they need for remote learning, according to the district’s chief information officer Jim Culbert. WJXT.

Seminole County: About 50 percent of parents have chosen remote learning for their children instead of a return to the classroom, according to district officials. Just over 23 percent chose to attend schools in-person, and more than 27 percent made no selection. WKMG. WOFL.

Volusia County: School board members could not come to an agreement at last week’s meeting about enforcing the proposed policy to require students to wear face masks. The policy states that not wearing a mask “will be dealt with as a health issue, not as a disciplinary issue,” and board members question whether that approach will work. The board will revisit the issue at a future meeting. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Florida Department of Education has approved the school district’s virtual learning option that lets students livestream classes from their chosen school. WOFL. WMFE.

Lake County: School officials will hold a live Facebook Q&A today to answer parents’ questions about the district’s plan to start the new school year. Parents have until Wednesday to choose a learning option for their children. Orlando Sentinel.

Leon County: More than 60 percent of the county’s parents have chosen to send their children back to schools next month, while most district principals and teachers said they would not feel safe if schools reopened. The survey was taken before district officials pleaded with families last week to choose the remote learning option. Tallahassee Democrat.

Santa Rosa County: County charter schools and private schools are taking different paths toward the same goal of reopening schools next month. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Hernando County: Almost 700 of the 4,000 electronic devices handed out to students when learning went from in-person to remote in March were never returned, and district officials said they now don’t have enough to give one to every student. Many parents who want their children to take classes remotely will have to buy the devices themselves, and some said they can’t afford it. Many districts around the country are reporting the same problem. WFTS.

Sumter County: The Villages Charter School has pushed the start of the school year to Aug. 19. Villages-News.

Coronavirus deaths: Karen Bradwell, who managed the Pioneers After-school Mentoring Program at the Fort Braden School in Leon County, has died of complications from the coronavirus. She was 53. A week ago another Fort Braden employee, 19-year-old custodian Jordan Byrd, also died after contracting the virus. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WCTV. A custodian at Manatee County High School for the past 15 years died last Wednesday from COVID-19. Ramon Morales was 64. Bradenton Herald. WTVT. Kimora “Kimmie” Lynum, the 9-year-old Putnam County girl who died of coronavirus complications July 18, had no known pre-existing health conditions, according to her family. WSVN. WPEC. WJXT. WTLV.

More on the coronavirus: Florida’s top Republicans have been pushing for schools to reopen. So are their school-age children and grandchildren returning? Miami Herald. WPTV. The number of children attending preschools fell by 50 percent during the pandemic, according to new research by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The 74. Student-athletes in Florida are now weighing the risks of returning to competition. Lakeland Ledger. A summer reading program to help students who fell behind because of the pandemic may become an after-school program. Florida Today.

Contract negotiations: Brevard County teachers and the school district remain at odds in contract negotiations over over how much paid leave teachers are entitled to if they’re forced to quarantine for COVID-19, and on the district’s role in providing cleaning supplies for schools. Tentative agreements have been reached that allow teachers to carry over comp time from the last school year, to conduct temperature checks on students, and to be compensated for buying cleaning products that meet the district’s guidelines. Negotiations resume Tuesday. Florida Today. WKMG.

Notable deaths: The July 5 death of Sumter County School Board member Jennifer Boyett has been ruled a suicide. Boyette, who was 35, was elected to the board in 2016 and was running unopposed this year. She was a math and statistics professor at Hillsborough Community College. Villages-News.

Personnel moves: New principals have been named for eight Collier County schools. The first day of school has been scheduled for Aug. 19. Naples Daily News.

School board elections: The three candidates for the District 4 seat on the Orange County School Board talk about their backgrounds, priorities and challenges facing the district in a video interview. Orlando Sentinel.

Employees and the law: A former Palm Beach County teacher has been arrested and accused of having sex with a student. Kimberly Charles, then 26, was a Forest Hill High School teacher who worked with immigrant students in 2019 when police said she and a 17-year-old senior at the school became intimate. District officials said Charles was fired in June 2019. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: What stays plain and most regrettable is the continued assumption of most “authorities” that a small collection of government persons who are total strangers to both the individual child and parent still will be deciding where those kids from poor families in this neighborhood will learn their ABCs. John E. Coons, redefinED. Tips to help your children prepare for the “new normal” when they return to school. Dr. Reisha Brown, Fort Myers News-Press. Forcing digital students to watch videos of classes taught in a brick-and-mortar setting is not “innovative” — it is an experiment haphazardly thrown together, and it will have a negative impact on thousands of students. Erica Spangler, Tallahassee Democrat. I miss my granddad, who died from the coronavirus, and I don’t want my friends to die too. Maddelena Kaji, Tallahassee Democrat.

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