Temporary injunction issued against order to reopen schools, technical issues mark first day and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Judge rules for union: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s order that public schools reopen their classrooms to students was ruled unconstitutional by a Leon County circuit judge on Monday. Judge Charles Dodson issued a temporary injunction against the July 6 order, ruling that it “arbitrarily disregards safety” and usurps the constitutional authority of local school boards to decide when schools can safely reopen. Dodson also suggested that school districts were bullied into opening by the threat of losing state funding, which he also called unconstitutional. The Florida Education Association brought the suit and sought the injunction. The state quickly filed an appeal, which puts a stay on the injunction. About 90 percent of the state’s 67 school districts have already opened. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Network. Palm Beach Post. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WKMG. WJXT. WPTV. WTXL. WFSU. Washington Post. Reuters. NPR.

Private school aid blocked: Another injunction was issued on Monday by a judge, this one against the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Judge Barbara J. Rothstein declared that the department’s rules on distributing federal coronavirus relief aid to schools would cause public schools in Washington state “great and irreparable” harm. The department gave state school districts the choice of providing aid through a a formula based on poverty or enrollment. Both required the public districts to send aid to private schools. The order prevents the federal rule from going into effect in Washington until there is a full trial. It would only have an impact in Florida if the department withdraws the rule, if the state joined a lawsuit or the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against it. Education Dive. Orlando Sentinel.

Reopening effect on businesses: State officials have suggested that getting students back into classrooms would allow their parents to get back to their places of work. But many business leaders say the reopening is having little effect on whether they call their employees back into the office. Instead, it’s the course of the coronavirus pandemic that is driving their decisions. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: More than 700 coronavirus cases in Florida have been linked to K-12 and high education schools, according to the Florida Department of Health, and a report from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services discloses that school lunch providers in the state have lost about $262 million since schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are more developments on school reopenings and other news from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: Technical issued dogged the first day of online webinars the district is holding this week to help parents prepare to send their children back to school. Online-only learning begins next Monday. WFOR. WPLG.

Broward: Michelle Kefford, the principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is one of three finalists for the national secondary school principal of the year award given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Kefford was Florida principal of the year in 2019, when she ran Charles Flanagan High School. She was transferred to Stoneman Douglas in July 2019. The winner will be announced Oct. 21. Sun Sentinel. The Olsen Middle School annex, which built in 1954 and closed in 1994, may finally be torn down. Today, the school board is expected to approve the demolition of the building, which has been a home for vagrants and animals. Sun Sentinel.

Tampa Bay area: Students returned to schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco on Monday, and already four positive coronavirus cases have been reported at Pinellas schools. Northeast High School, Pinellas Park Elementary, Shore Acres Elementary and Carwise Middle all had positive tests of either a student or staff member. In Hillsborough, this week will be online-only learning. About 85 percent of students logged in Monday, and glitches in the district platform were reported. “To have close to 85 percent of students sign on is a really great number,” said district spokeswoman Tanya Arja. “Everybody understood the importance of this week.” About half of the students in Pinellas and Pasco returned to classrooms. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA. WTVT.

Orange: In the past two weeks, 207 school-aged children and 12 school employees, including two school drivers, have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to health officials. None of the children have attended classes in schools, so no classrooms are under quarantine. In-person learning began Friday. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Duval: Four positive coronavirus tests have been reported at four different schools in the district. Affected are Highlands Middle School, the Young Women’s/Men’s Leadership Academy, Landon College Preparatory and Dinsmore Elementary. The news was announced shortly after health officials reported 24 school-related cases since Aug. 10. Florida Times-Union. The district is starting an online coronavirus dashboard to track cases. WJXT.

Polk: Enrollment was less than expected, Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said after the first day of school Monday. “We’re actually still having some parents who are going back and forth – ‘do I really want to do e-Learning or do I want to send my student back to school?’ ” Byrd said. About 45 percent of the district’s 107,000 students chose in-person learning. For those learning remotely, technical issues marked the day, with the district reporting problems in its own platform. Lakeland Ledger.

Brevard: A nationwide disruption in the Zoom video conferencing application prevented some online students from signing in on the first day of school Monday. Students who attended classrooms in-person had fewer issues, and Superintendent Mark Mullins said things will improve every day. “Grace and flexibility is going to have to be a mantra for us as we continue to charge forward,” he said. Florida Today. WFTV.

Seminole: More than 75 students and staff at seven district schools have been asked to quarantine because they were exposed to the coronavirus. Last week, 51 went into isolation. WFTV. District students, as well as some others around the state, reported connectivity problems with the Florida Virtual School on Monday. WOGX.

Volusia: The principal and assistant principal at Seabreeze High School could be suspended for three days after an internal investigation concluded that they didn’t properly look into a January incident in which two students tripped a third while filming a TikTok video. Principal Joseph Rawlings and assistant principal Jeff Miller originally gave the two girls in-school suspensions of two days. After the district looked into the incident, the punishment was changed to out-of-school suspensions of three days. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Two more schools reported positive coronavirus tests or exposures. Both Manatee High School and Lincoln Memorial Academy had positive cases and direct exposures. District officials did not say how many were affected, and whether they were students or staff. Bradenton Herald. District officials have no plans to change their school calendar, despite the judge’s ruling in the teachers union case. Schools reopened last week. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: Most schools in the district are expecting slightly more than half of their students to attend in-person classes. Surveys submitted by parents show that 58 percent chose in-person learning for their children, while 41.3 percent will do remote learning and less than 1 percent will be home-schooled. Naples Daily News.

Lake: Traditional in-person schooling proceeded as planned, but a variety of glitches caused anxiety for students who are learning remotely although about 70 percent were able to log into the system by noon. Daily Commercial. WKMG. A judge’s ruling that the state’s reopening order was unconstitutional won’t affect the district. “This train has left the station,” said school board member Stephanie Luke. WMFE.

St. Johns: Teachers and district officials are squabbling over who should control the wearing of masks in classrooms. The district’s mask policy says students must wear one if they can’t socially distance from others. If they can stay 6 feet away, they can remove their masks. But teachers want to be able to require students to wear masks in rooms. Superintendent Tim Forson denied the request, so the teachers union is asking the school board to reconsider the policy at its meeting today. WJXT. St. Augustine Record.

Marion: About 74 percent of the county’s students returned to school Monday, a drop from the 80 to 85 percent that usually arrive for the first day of school. The district did not offer a breakdown of how many attended in-person and online. The peak enrollment is usually in October, and Marion expects to have about 43,000 students by then. Ocala Star-Banner. WKMG.

St. Lucie: Not quite 50 percent of the district’s 41,000 students returned to the classrooms Monday. “I’ve missed them so much,” said Lakewood Park Elementary School principal Kerri Walukiewicz. “It’s so good to have the kids back.” Technical problems caused headaches for those learning remotely. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC.

Escambia and Santa Rosa: About half of Escambia’s students returned to the classroom on Monday, with the rest opting for online learning, while 82 percent of Santa Rosa students chose face-to-face instruction. There were the usual technical issues reported in Escambia, but Santa Rosa Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said the Santa Rosa virtual school had been a “nightmare.” WKRG. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Leon: District officials said despite the ruling in the teachers union case against the state’s reopening order, they aren’t planning to change Aug. 31 as the first day of school. “Our district will continue to prepare this week for the reopening of our schools next Monday, August 31st with roughly 15,000 students returning to our campuses in-person and 15,000 students beginning school online,” Superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement WTXL. Budgets for county school athletic departments will be cut by 50 percent this year, according to county athletic director Scott Hansen. Each school will receive $25,000. WCTV.

Martin: Three more schools are reporting positive coronavirus tests. Eleven students and seven employees at Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School will switch to remote learning, as will 21 students and three employees at Felix A. Williams Elementary and 10 Port Salerno Elementary School students and four employees. WPTV.

Indian River: Face masks, elbow bumps, one-way hallways, and social distancing markers on floors were among the changes on the first day of school. About 11,000 students, or 60 percent of the overall enrollment, attended school with the rest learning from home on a computer. TCPalm. WPTV.

Flagler: Students who returned to classrooms reported a relatively smooth first day of school, while those trying to connect online said the day was “a mess.” Overall, Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt said she thought the first day of school was “fantastic.” Fewer than half the students attended in-person. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Nassau: Students and staff began the adjustment to the new coronavirus rules on the first day of school Monday, but smiles were seen around campuses. Second-grader Tatianna Prentice said, “Today I expect school to be, like, fun and not the same as 2nd grade last year.” WJAX. WJXT.

Jackson: Confusion about school reopening traffic patterns led to some gridlock on the first day of school Monday, said Superintendent Larry Moore. WMBB. WJHG.

DeSoto: About 60 percent of the district’s students returned Monday for in-person instruction, and district officials said they’re prepared for coronavirus cases. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t consult with our health department and receive their recommendation whether we need to consider a closure or continue with the opening,” said Superintendent Adrian Cline. WBBH.

Franklin: Several students and district school employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to health officials. Quarantine orders were issued, and the health department will have to clear those who are affected before they can return to schools. WMBB. WJHG.

Opinions on schools: Local school boards have rightly regained the power to decide when schools can safely reopen classrooms during this pandemic. Local boards can weigh the best medical evidence, not worry about financial penalties wielded by the state, in making such important steps, thanks to Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson. Tampa Bay Times. Do pandemic pods represent the incremental improvement to digital learning that will bring that type of learning into disruptive territory? Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Martin County schools, and every other public school district in Florida, could be doing this “go home — come back” game all year long. Upsetting as that may be, it’s better than “go home and stay there because you tested positive,” isn’t it? Gil Smart, TCPalm.

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