Reopening angst builds as preparation time shortens, graduations, school police overtime and more

The panic over reopening: With just over a month before before some U.S. schools reopen, there is some advice being given, lots of opinions offered and little consensus about what districts should be doing to make the return of students safe. Predictably, panic is setting in for parents, teachers and school officials. Debates have been emotional, tense and angry, because at a time when the number of coronavirus cases is exploding, the stakes are high. “I’m being bombarded with, ‘How the hell are we going to do this?’ ” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the country’s largest union, the National Education Association. A recent poll indicated that 54 percent of Americans are somewhat or very uncomfortable sending their children back to school. Politico. Associated Press. Three teachers talk about the challenges of reopening schools. NPR.

School reopenings: The Volusia County School District won’t announce its final school reopening plans until July 15, but school board members have approved the purchase of 80,000 cloth masks for $84,000 and will stagger kindergarten start times. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Duval County School District’s reopening plan calls for students in grades 7-12 to choose between in-person or online learning. But choosing online would cost them their slots at their neighborhood or magnet schools. On Tuesday, school board members will consider allowing students who choose online schooling to keep those slots. WJXT. Duval County’s school reopening plan includes teachers being in classrooms every day. Many of them have concerns. Florida Times-Union. Monroe County school officials continue to work on their reopening plan, but said they intend for students to return as scheduled Aug. 13. Key West Citizen.

More on the coronavirus: Jackson County high school graduations have been postponed because of the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the area. No rescheduled dates were announced. WJHG. At least eight staff and family members of Lakeland Kathleen High School tested positive for the coronavirus after the school’s graduation ceremony June 9 at Joker Marchant Stadium. Lakeland Ledger. An employee of the Villages Charter School in Sumter County has tested positive for the coronavirus, leading school officials to order a deep cleaning of the school. Villages-News. Food distribution has ended at the Villages and Umatilla elementary schools in Lake County because of a decline in pickups. Daily Commercial. Testing for the coronavirus is putting a dent in the budgets of college athletic departments. Associated Press. St. Johns County summer camps have students back together with the friends in a learning atmosphere. Florida Times-Union.

School police overtime: A Palm Beach County School District audit is faulting its police department for not paying the proper attention to overtime claimed by its officers. As a result, in the past seven years the department’s overtime budget has grown from $1 million to more than $2.7 million, and the amount paid out exceeded the budget every year. Fifty-four of the department’s 264 employees earned an extra third of their salary in overtime. Twenty of them received overtime equal to half their salaries. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent search: Twenty-seven people have applied for the Escambia County School District superintendent’s job. Just two of the applicants are already in the school system: Keith Leonard, assistant superintendent for human resources, and Claudia S. Williams, a guidance counselor and former District 3 school board member. Two other contenders are current superintendents and five are former superintendents. Voters decided in 2018 to change from elected to appointed superintendents. The current superintendent, Malcolm Thomas, who has been in office 12 years, retires in November. Pensacola News Journal.

District settles with ex-official: The suspended Polk County School District chief academic adviser has agreed to resign in a settlement with the school board. Michael Akes was suspended in February for making a drunken, threatening phone call to the president of the teachers union. Akes received $10,000 in a salary settlement, $8,500 in sick pay and $9,700 in vacation pay. Lakeland Ledger.

School board elections: The six candidates for the District 3 seat, and four running for the District 5 and District 7 seats on the Hillsborough County School Board answer questions about the district’s most pressing issues, improving reading scores, the achievement gap, charter schools, whether students should wear masks and more. Gradebook. Tara Elizabeth Klink and Melonie Kay Inzetta, both educators, meet in the Aug. 18 primary for the District 1 seat on the Franklin County School District. The current board member, George Thompson, is retiring. Apalachicola Times.

Personnel moves: Dominique Ward, the assistant principal at Lake Hills School, has been named principal at the Rimes Early Learning Center. She replaces Gregg Dudley, who was transferred to the Villages Elementary of Lady Lake after its principal, Dave Bordenkircher, retired. Daily Commercial.

Notable deaths: Nathaniel “Nat” Storms, who taught agriculture at Brandon High School in Hillsborough County for 31 years, was the first honorary mayor of Brandon and later entertained at the Florida State Fair with his harmonica and stories about farm living, has died at the age of 94. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Academic understanding is important for kindergarten, but equally important are the skills of  language and literacy, cognition and general knowledge, approaches to learning, physical well-being and motor development and social emotional. Shauna Watson, Northwest Florida Daily News. Safely reopening high school sports will be a lot harder than opening college and pro sports. Tamara Hew-Butler and Phillip D. Levy, Palm Beach Post. How a case of an Indian River County student’s arrest for having a knife in his car at school, and the subsequent dismissal of the charges,  raises major questions on various issues, from school safety to how youngsters are treated nowadays. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. For the first time in years, the number of people taking the state certification test to become a high school math teacher went up in 2019. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Three 6th-graders at Navigator Academy of Leadership charter school each have experiments going up in a NASA balloon in August or September as part of the Cubes in Space program. Lakeland Ledger.

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