Mandatory masks for students, a delayed school start, district discipline plan, graduations and more

Masks and reopenings: Miami-Dade County students will have to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines when schools reopen Aug. 24, according to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. They’ll have the option of in-person or online classes, or a combination of the two. Plexiglass dividers will be installed to help protect teachers, and contact tracing will be done for anyone who tests positive. “Our plan includes the ability also to quickly pivot to an online or distance learning model should conditions worsen significantly,” Carvalho said. It was unanimously approved by the school board. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said he will recommend to the school board that the reopening of school be delayed nine days to Aug. 19, and that students wear masks in classes and anywhere else they can’t be socially distanced from others. Hanna said the delay would give the district extra time to get 32,000 Chromebooks it’s ordered, load them with online-learning platforms and train teachers how to use them. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV. A majority of Palm Beach County School Board members said they want to delay the start of school Aug. 10, or at least consider it. Palm Beach Post. A Palm Beach County School District survey shows that only 34 percent of teachers and employees support a fulltime return to the classrooms this fall, while 61 percent approve of working alternating days. And 59 percent said they would support a delay in the start of the school year. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. Lake County students can choose from in-person or online classes, or a combination, under the district’s tentative plan, and the district has now bought enough Chromebooks to give one to every student. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. Escambia County schools will encourage students to wear masks this fall but won’t require it, said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. WEAR. A group of parents in Hillsborough County is petitioning the school district to require students to wear masks. Gradebook. School board candidates in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties weigh in on masks for students. Tampa Bay Times. An app is being developed that will screen Duval County employees for the coronavirus before they enter school buildings. WJXT. Palm Beach State College will reopen in three phases and offer a mixture of in-person and online classes. WPEC.

Disciplinary problems: A discipline plan started in 2015 has failed to improve student behavior and will be changed, according to Brevard County school officials. During the 2018-2019 school year, the 11th-largest district in Florida ranked second in student expulsions and out-of-school suspensions for kindergartners, third in placement in alternative learning centers, sixth for total out-of-school suspensions, and seventh in the number of expulsions of students with disabilities. There were 1,373 criminal, violent or disruptive incidents in 2017-18, but 2,274 the following year. “Suspensions … have not impacted student behavior in the classroom,” concluded assistant superintendent Christine Moore. She said the district will switch to an approach that tries to identify and address the root causes of bad behavior before they begin. Florida Today.

Graduation plans: The Hernando County School District is the latest in the Tampa Bay area to cancel indoor graduation ceremonies because of the rapid rise of coronavirus cases. Instead, virtual ceremonies will be held July 29 through Aug. 1. Hillsborough County previously canceled its indoor ceremonies in favor of virtual graduations, and Pasco County switched from indoor to outdoor celebrations. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WFTS. Lee County school officials also canceled all in-person graduations that were scheduled later this month. “Following the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in our community and the health risk associated with large events, we believe this is in the best interest of our graduates and families,” the district said in a statement. The district is planning on holding drive-through ceremonies. WINK. WFTX. WBBH. The Clay County School District will hold traditional in-person graduations on July 17, Superintendent David Broskie announced. Attendees will be spaced out to comply with guidelines, and guests will be “highly encouraged” to wear masks. Tickets are limited, but the events will be livestreamed. WJXT.

Online program rescued: Essential parts of an online education program vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis are being rescued by the State University System Board of Governors and the University of West Florida. DeSantis removed $29.4 million from the budget for the Complete Florida Plus Program, which provides resources to more than 100 public universities, public colleges and K-12 school districts. Leftover funds will keep the program going until the program is re-created and removed from the control of UWF. Politico Florida.

Sports delay urged: The Florida High School Athletic Association fall sports task force is recommending that the start of practice should be pushed back from July 27 to Aug. 10 due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. Included in the recommendation are multiple options for start dates for districts to choose from, since some counties are less affected by the virus than others. The FHSAA board of directors will make the final decision. Naples Daily News. Florida Times-Union. Lakeland Ledger. Northwest Florida Daily News. WKMG. WTXL.

More on the coronavirus: The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that students and staff not be tested for the coronavirus when schools reopen. Politico. The Alachua County School District got some practice at preparing for the new fall routine when 11 schools were opened this week for summer reading camps. Gainesville Sun. Two Orange County churches and a private schools are collaborating to hand out 1,000 bags of food today. WKMG.

Superintendent takes a leave: Volusia County school Superintendent Scott Fritz is taking a leave of absence to undergo treatment for his cancer and to recover. The school board will meet virtually July 7 to appoint an interim superintendent. The No. 2 person in the district is Carmen Balgobin, who was hired this year as deputy superintendent of teaching, leading and learning. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Parkland court case: An appeals court has agreed to let a civil lawsuit continue against a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School security monitor who failed to call for a “code red” alert when he saw the accused shooter come onto school grounds. Instead Andrew Medina followed the man, whom he recognized and knew was considered a danger, in a golf cart before calling the school resource officer. Medina had asked the case filed by parents of some of the students killed to be dismissed because of the law protecting government employees. But the court ruled that the allegations against Medina were enough to consider whether he acted with “willful and wanton disregard of human rights, safety, or property,” which is the standard by which suits can be brought under the law. News Service of Florida.

Cap stops their graduations: Several St. Lucie County students were prohibited from walking across the stage to get diplomas last week because they had decorated the top of their caps with a Black Lives Matter message. An assistant principal said the St. Lucie West Centennial High School students were too political and gave them the option of wearing a regular cap or not walking for graduation. District officials said the assistant principal’s decision was a mistake, and have apologized. WPEC.

School district watchdog: Teresa Michael, a longtime government investigator, has been hired as the inspector general of the Palm Beach County School District. The 57-year-old replaces Lung Chiu, and will have a staff of more than a dozen investigators and auditors who will look for waste, fraud and abuse in the district, which is the fifth-largest in the state and the 10th-largest in the nation. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Espinoza isn’t deviating from the U.S.’s “separation of church and state,” as critics have misunderstood. The ruling follows a long history of allowing religious institutions and persons to benefit from public programs, in this instance extending that right to K-12 education where powerful opponents attempted to carve out an exemption. A fight over how much religion can be taught in a private school may be around the corner. But that is a fight for another day. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED. Local school officials have a lot of tough decisions to make in the coming weeks, but requiring masks in schools is an easy call. Masks improve student and teacher safety, while maximizing the chances of schools staying open. Those must be top priorities. Tampa Bay Times. Having police officers in schools is problematic. But so are the alternatives. F. Chris Curran, Gainesville Sun.

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