Class quarantined: On the second day of the new school year, a Martin County class has been ordered to quarantine after a student showed symptoms associated with the coronavirus and was sent home. The student was one of nine in a class at SeaWind Elementary School in Hobe Sound. All the students are expected to quarantine for 14 days, and will attend school remotely during that time. The teacher, whom the district has labeled an essential worker, will return to the classroom and teach remotely, but will keep her distance from others. If that teacher begins to report symptoms, he or she will also be required to quarantine. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was in Washington for an education roundtable, said about the incident, “Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too will the Martin County school system find a way to provide meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning — all in all the time.” TCPalm. WPEC. WPTV. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. WFSU. Washington Post.
FLVS called ‘second tier’: In a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran touted the Florida Virtual School as the largest in the country but also called it a “second-tier education.” He added, “The best education is when you got a great teacher, a great mentor, someone who’s got great wisdom, all the peers together getting a great education.” President Trump responded by saying, “Virtual is just not as good as being there. It’s just not the same thing.” Trump also announced that 125 million reusable masks would be made available for schools, that teams from the CDC would be deployed to help with school reopenings, and that he wants federal funding in the next coronavirus aid package to “follow the student.” WFLA. WTSP. Education Week. Politico. Florida Phoenix. New York Post. Chalkbeat.
For some, it’s time to quit: Many Florida teachers say the reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic is forcing them to choose between their health and the job they love. Some are choosing their health and retiring. “For the first time in a very long time, I am feeling stressed. It is just a lot for me to process because I am being asked to do something that the science and the data are telling me there is an untenable amount of risk involved,” said Dave Galloway. a 6th-grade science teacher in Jackson County. In Pinellas County, 14 employees have resigned, 47 have asked for a leave of absence and more than 1,500 have requested an alternative assignment. News Service of Florida. Englewood Sun. WKMG. WJXT. WBBH.
Around the state: Forty-seven school districts have had their reopening plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. The latest are Leon, Walton and the FAMU Lab School. Here are more developments on school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts:
Hillsborough: The district has until Friday to decide whether to give in to state officials and offer in-person learning when schools reopen Aug. 24, or stick with the plan the school board approved in a 5-2 vote last week to start school with four weeks of online-only learning. At stake, Department of Education officials have made clear, is $23 million a month the district receives from the state. Several of the board members indicated they won’t change their votes if a special meeting is held today or Friday. Gradebook.
Palm Beach: In a 6-1 vote, the school board has approved a revised school reopening plan. Superintendent Donald Fennoy said the approval was necessary to ensure that hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding continued to flow to the district. The district begins school Aug. 31 with online-only learning, and Fennoy had proposed bringing students back to classes in stages when it was safe to do so. The state objected to the phased-in return, so Fennoy agreed to propose that all students be given the option of returning to in-person learning at the same time. The return date is uncertain. Fennoy said it would be a week after Phase 2 begins, but that’s at least a month away. The board also approved a requirement that students and employees will have to wear face coveragings when schools do reopen. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. Sun Sentinel. District officials said that teachers can bring their school-age children to work with them when online learning begins at the end of the month. WPTV.
Pasco: The union representing district employees has officially filed a complaint asking a judge to prohibit schools from opening Aug. 24. A union attorney, Mark Herdman, contends that the district can’t “prevent the spread of COVID-19” and therefore can’t guarantee the constitutional requirement to provide students a safe and secure education. The suit is filed only against the Pasco County School District, and is not associated with the Florida Education Association’s suit challenging the state’s order to open schools five days a week for students this month. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA.
Osceola: Those students who have chosen remote learning and are eligible for free meals will get them delivered through the Curbside Meals Program, starting Aug. 24. according to district officials. Osceola News-Gazette.
Lee: Answers to questions about the reopening of schools. Fort Myers News-Press.
Brevard: District officials said Wednesday that the identities of employees who test positive for the coronavirus will remain confidential under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which prohibits patient information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. Florida Today.
Volusia: The district is asking the state to provide full funding for students who have chosen remote learning instead of going back to school, and for an exemption to statewide testing in the spring. “Crisis management does not provide an opportunity for school boards to make sound future plans,” states the letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “In this regard, we implore you both to provide clear and consistent guidance for the operation of public schools this year.” Schools reopen Aug. 31. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Manatee: School board members have rejected a proposal to delay the first day of school from Aug. 17 to Aug. 31. Students will have the option of in-person learning, fulltime online classes or a hybrid schedule that blends the two. The board also approved a policy requiring students, teachers and visitors to wear masks on campuses, but agreed to meet again Friday to reconsider whether to specify exceptions to the policy, and also declined to offer rapid COVID-19 testing to employees. Bradenton Herald. Several employees at Palmetto High School are quarantining for 14 days after being exposed to the coronavirus on campus. The employees had direct exposure to the infected person, which means they were within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes. Bradenton Herald.
Collier: Answers to questions about the reopening of schools. Naples Daily News.
St. Johns: Despite the uncertainty of sales tax collections because of the coronavirus, the school district is moving ahead with several construction projects this school year. Voters approved an extra half-cent sales tax to finance the construction. It’s expected to bring in about $150 million over 10 years. St. Augustine Record.
Clay: The district said it needs to find about $4 million in its budget to buy Chromebooks and wifi hotspots for students who have chosen to learn remotely this year. About 2,400 that were loaned out last spring have not been returned, and about 8,500 students will need devices to tune into classes from home. Schools reopen Aug. 25. Clay Today.
Leon: Teachers will be permitted to wear medical scrubs to school this year, Superintendent Rocky Hanna said this week. Union president Scott Mazur said the idea came up at a meeting, and was embraced because scrubs are easily removed and washed. Tallahassee Democrat. The district’s school reopening plan has been approved by the Florida Department of Education. It offers students in-person and remote learning options when schools reopen Aug. 31. WTXL.
Alachua: Aug. 31 is the new first day of school, members of the school board decided Wednesday in a 3-2 vote. That’s a one-week delay from the previously approved plan. Students will attend classes in-person, virtually in the Alachua eSchool, or in the Digital Academy, where students continue to follow their teachers and classes in their chosen or assigned school. Gainesville Sun. WUFT. WJXT.
Citrus: The school board approved the 2020-2021 academic year calendar, with a start date of Aug. 20. About 11,300 of the district’s 15,000 students will return to classes, with the rest learning remotely. Citrus County Chronicle.
Monroe: School board members approved an Aug. 19 start date for schools, and a tentative budget of $230.5 million. The budget is about $4 million more than last year’s. Key West Citizen.
Wakulla: Schools reopen today, with about 90 percent of students returning to classrooms. The other 10 percent will begin remote learning Aug. 27. Superintendent Robert Pearce is asking for patience and courtesy. “I think the thing to remember is that we’re not in a normal situation,” Pearce said. “At least in comparison to what we’re used to. And so to try to pretend that it’s normal is not going to really solve anything” WTXL.
Union: Students returned to schools Wednesday, either in-person or through remote learning. “I think we’re ready. I think we do have some kids with underlying conditions and some kids that prefer distance learning, but we’re prepared for both ways. I just hope our kids come to school,” said Superintendent Carlton Faulk. WJXT.
More on the coronavirus: School board members around the country say they are faced with “impossible” decisions on school reopenings. Associated Press. A Florida charter school with 140 students received 37,500 cloth face masks under a $675 million federal program, according to an American health-oriented news website. STAT.
Sexual misconduct rule stands: A federal judge has denied a challenge to the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rule that mandates the way K-12 schools, colleges and universities deal with allegations of sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised the decision, saying it will hold schools accountable for making sure allegations are not ignored and also offer the accused the presumption of innocence. It goes into effect Friday. Politico. Education Week.
School elections: The race for the Clay County superintendent’s job has been focused on school policing. Superintendent David Broskie said student safety has improved since the district started its own police force, while challenger Charlie Van Sant said the district needs to foster a better relationship with the sheriff’s office. WJXT. Incumbent Gina Messenger is being challenged by Bridget Mendel for the District 1 seat on the Manatee County School Board. Bradenton Herald. Reviewing south Florida school board races, and the potential impact of the outcomes. WLRN.
Opinions on schools: The governor is correct that “nothing’s risk-free in life.” But we need a higher standard when it comes to the health of our students and teachers. That’s why the decision on reopening schools should be made locally, with the help of local health directors. Palm Beach Post. With schools reopening, it’s time for parents to check in with their children to understand their adaptability to the changes in life brought on by the pandemic. Jessica Ruiz, Sun Sentinel. If we elected more teachers to school boards, amazing things could be allowed to happen in our schools. And more of the tedium and time-consuming minutiae might give way to common sense. Sandy Stenoff, Orlando Sentinel. The Orange County School District should stop its dawdling and rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School after Roberto Clemente, a veteran, humanitarian and Hall of Fame baseball player. Orlando Sentinel.