State orders school reopenings, virtual programs, masks, graduation changes, social media and more

School reopenings ordered: Florida’s public schools must reopen next month and offer full services, the Department of Education ordered on Monday even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the state. The order, signed by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, said that “upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students.” The only exception permitted is when local health departments say schools cannot open. “There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride,” the order states. The order mandates that districts must provide both in-person and online learning options, specialized instruction and services for students with individualized education programs and English-language learners. The DOE is giving a waiver for the annual October head count that determines funding. Plans must be submitted to the DOE for approval, unless those plans are the same as the district had before the pandemic began, along with the projected percentage of students continuing with remote learning. The state order will force some districts to adjust their plans, and was criticized by teachers concerned about their safety.  News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. Bay News 9. WTXL. WJXT. WKMG. WFLA. WPTV. WTLV. Corcoran also ordered that students attending private schools on state scholarships can participate in “innovative learning options” the first half of the year without endangering their financial aid. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer several scholarship programs. redefinED.

Virtual programs bolstered: Florida schools districts are beefing up their virtual education programs as a way to better serve their students but also to keep them. One effect of the coronavirus pandemic is an expected increase in the number of students who choose to learn remotely fulltime instead of returning to school classrooms. Once they’ve made that choice, students have several options: They could stick with their home school districts, which keeps the money from the state for those students, or attend Florida Virtual School or any number of other companies, which costs the home districts money. Home districts said their advantages are local teachers and continued access to their student information system, which includes students’ records. Tampa Bay Times.

Reopening schools: Many Hillsborough County parents, teachers and doctors are calling on Superintendent Addison Davis to make the wearing of masks in schools mandatory instead of optional when schools reopen next month. Gradebook. Bay News 9. WFTS. Here’s where reopening plans stand for Tampa Bay area school districts. WUSF. The Lee County School Board will review the district’s proposed reopening plan on Wednesday. A task force has recommended in-person classes for preK-6 students, with most middle and high school students attending schools two days a week and following live instruction the other three. Fort Myers News-Press. The Santa Rosa County School District plans to encourage students to wear masks at school and practice social distancing. District officials will also ask parents to perform daily temperature checks on their children. Pensacola News Journal. Alachua County’s school reopening plan is drawing criticism for what some believe is a scarcity of details. Gainesville Sun. Many Florida school districts are getting creative to try to maintain a safe environment, with plastic shields around desks, mask breaks and more. Florida Phoenix. Northwest Florida State College’s reopening plans include an expansion of online classes, temperature checks upon entering all buildings, and the use of masks when social distancing isn’t possible. WEAR.

Graduation changes: In-person graduations for Charlotte County high schools have been canceled, and will be held virtually instead. “This was an incredibly hard decision but due to the continued 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, families and community at large,” said district spokesman Mike Riley. Charlotte Sun. WINK. Masks are now being required at all Volusia County high school graduations. They had been optional, but a spike in coronavirus cases prompted the change. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Several high school graduations in Manatee County that were changed because of the pandemic are moving again, this time primarily because of the weather. Four schools will switch ceremonies from evenings to mornings to avoid the heat and possible storms, and those changes have forced two other schools to switch dates. Bradenton Herald.

More on the coronavirus: Carsyn Davis, the 17-year-old Lee County student who recently died from the coronavirus, had been treated at home for a week with the antibiotic azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine, the drug touted by President Trump, before being taken to the hospital where she died, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office. Two weeks before her death she attended a church function with 100 people, but did not wear a mask or follow social distancing guidelines. Fort Myers News-Press. More than 330 Manatee County children under the age of 17 have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to health officials, with 133 of the cases diagnosed in the past week. Bradenton Herald. Citrus County schools have reopened for summer school for elementary students. Middle and high school students attending summer school will do so remotely. Citrus County Chronicle.

Social media policy: Pasco County students wearing any school uniform — those required for school, or worn by band members, cheerleaders and athletes — soon could be subject to disciplinary action for social media comments that violate the district’s digital citizenship guidelines. The school board will consider adopting the policy at today’s meeting. The message, said board chair Colleen Beaudoin, is “Don’t go on social media and make bad choices.” Tampa Bay Times.

Jobs in education: Jobs in public education increased by a net of about 45,000 in June, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly report. More than 70,000 jobs were added, but about 25,000 jobs were reported lost in state government education. Employment in private schools increased by about 93,000. While the job losses slowed from May to June, unemployment in local education is up about 7.5 percent over June 2019, and 10 percent at the state level. Education Dive.

Pay raise complaints: Veteran Bay County teachers are disappointed they won’t be getting the raises they thought they would when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill authorizing $500 million for higher pay. Most of the money is going to boost starting teacher pay toward the $47,500 goal DeSantis set. “My initial reaction was ‘Heck yeah, I’m getting a raise’ and then I actually read the document and I said ‘Oh I guess I’m not getting a raise,’ ” said Crystal Bullock, a Bay High School English teacher who has 10 years of experience. “The veteran teachers are not enthusiastic about this because we’re now going to have to watch these new teachers come in and make what a lot of us are making now.” Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Personnel moves: Thirty Duval County schools will be getting new principals when schools reopen next month. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: We will need all our K-12 teachers once a COVID vaccine has arrived and the pandemic is over. So why are we putting some of them at risk now? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Sarasota County’s next school superintendent must restore trust and be strong enough to seek out voices from the community and from our schools, and not just follow the outline of the first 100 days designed by the already well-entrenched executive cabinet he or she will inherit. Irene Enriquez-Simpson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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