Corcoran calls reopening ‘overwhelming success,’ state education budget, choice support and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

School reopening review: Florida’s school reopening has been an “overwhelming success,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran pronounced at Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting. “I think we’re a model for the rest of the nation,” he said. “We believe it’s only going to get better.” He was critical of some county branches of the Florida Department of Health, saying they had been “too aggressive” in calling for quarantines of whole classrooms. About 18,000 students and employees have been quarantined, but Corcoran said only about 50 had been exposed to the coronavirus at school. Board member Michael Olenick asked Corcoran why general coronavirus information wasn’t widely available to the public. “Some counties have dashboards. Some counties don’t’ have dashboards,” he said. “There’s no way to measure success or failure in this without having uniform standards.” Corcoran said a statewide dashboard could violate the privacy rights of those who test positive. Olenick also questioned Corcoran’s characterization of Florida Education Association leaders as “union bosses” who filed a “frivolous” lawsuit against the reopening. “I just want to clarify, in this country, litigation isn’t instituted by bosses, and the FEA represents teachers around the state, and they did what they thought needed to be done,” Olenick said. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix.

State board budget request: The Florida Board of Education has proposed a $22 billion budget for the 2021-2022 school year, a slight increase over this year’s. Spending would go up by $10 per student, and the budget projects a 30,000-student growth in enrollment. Among the requests: $500 million toward teacher raises, $180 million for the safe schools program that calls for an armed officer or guardian in every school, $81 million for capital projects for charter schools, and $40 million for the Schools of Hope program that allows the state to approve charter schools in neighborhoods with struggling public schools. The request now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will submit his formal budget recommendation to the Legislature. Tampa Bay Times.

School choice support: Support for school choice among U.S. families with children in public schools has surged from 67 percent in April to 77 percent this week, according to a poll released by Real Clear Opinion Research. The support is bipartisan, with 76 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of independents and 72 percent of Democrats supporting giving parents at least some of the public money spent on K-12 public education for home, virtual or private education if public schools do not reopen for in-person classes. redefinED.

Around the state: A Palm Beach County circuit judge is expected to rule soon in a lawsuit challenging the school district’s reopening, a former deputy superintendent in Marion County is accused of taking advantage of his subordinates for his personal gain, a Brevard County school is closed because of coronavirus cases, and several districts said they’re starting to track unaccounted for students. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Orange: Health officials have cleared West Orange High School to reopen four days earlier than expected. The school was closed Sept. 21 after at least 10 coronavirus cases were confirmed and 150 students and staff were asked to quarantine. The Oct. 5 return date has now been moved up to Oct. 1. Health officials also said the school’s football team can play its game tomorrow. WKMG. WOFL.

Palm Beach, South Florida: A lawsuit brought by seven teachers challenging the district’s school reopening plan is in the hands of a circuit judge after a six-hour hearing Wednesday. Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley asked for additional briefs by the end of today, and indicated his decision could be announced Friday or early next week. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. On the first day of publishing a coronavirus dashboard for cases in Palm Beach County schools, the district got it wrong, officials acknowledged. Palm Beach Post. The 49 elementary schools and 8 high schools in the Archdiocese of Miami began their phased-in reopening of classrooms Wednesday. The return began with K-2 students, and will expand to grades 3-5 Monday, 6-8 Wednesday, and everyone else on Oct. 2. WFOR. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: The district’s educational equity report, approved by the school board this week, showed big gaps in equity among Hispanics. About 36.5 percent of the district’s students are Hispanic, but only 13 percent of teachers, 12 percent of principals and 5.3 percent of counselors identify as Hispanic. WFTS. A Greco Middle School teacher has been arrested and accused of sending sexually explicit messages to a student. James Michaud, 28, who teaches in the AVID program, faces charges of authority figure soliciting or engaging in lewd conduct with a student, transmission of harmful materials to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTVT. WFTS.

Brevard: A Cocoa Beach elementary school has been closed until Monday after an “expanded” number of coronavirus cases, district officials announced Wednesday. A decision will made Sunday if the closure of Enterprise Elementary School will be extended. This is the third time a school in the county has been closed over coronavirus concerns. Golfview Elementary in Rockledge was shut down for eight days early in September, and Merritt Island Christian School closed Monday for two weeks. Florida Today. WKMG. WOFL.

Volusia: Nine more cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the school district since last Friday, bringing the total to 59 since schools reopened Aug. 31. Four of the new cases are of students, and five are employees. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Telehealth services will be placed in six schools by Oct. 5, after the school board approved a contract with MCR Health this week. Bayshore Elementary, Blackburn Elementary, Oneco Elementary, Prine Elementary, Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary and Lee Middle will get the services. All are Title I schools, with a large percentage of students eligible for free or reduced meals. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Twenty-seven students and employees at Palmetto Elementary School have been advised to quarantine after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. Another case was reported at Daughtrey Elementary School, but no quarantines were ordered. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: A charter school is being planned on the property that has been Fogg’s Nursery in North Naples since 1987. The Naples Classical Academy is expected to open next fall with about 700 students in grades K-10, and expand to the 11th grade in 2022 and 12th in 2023, with a maximum of 1,100 students. Naples Daily News.

St. Johns: Residents of the Lincolnville neighborhood in St. Augustine are asking the planning and zoning board to reconsider its approval of a variance that would allow a vacant nursing facility to be converted into a new home for the private K-8 Veritas Classical School. They said they are worried about traffic on the narrow streets. The school has 112 students, but plans to grow to about 185 in grades K-12 by 2025. St. Augustine Record.

Lake: A new K-8 school in Clermont that is expected to open next fall will be named the Lake Pointe Academy. Principal Andrea Steenken said the naming committee wanted the name to reflect the location, on a lake, and the school’s emphasis on the environment and STEM courses. The school will have room for up to 1,200 students. Daily Commercial.

Marion: Former deputy superintendent Jonathan Grantham “took advantage of his subordinates for his own personal gain,” according to a school district internal investigation report that has been sent to the state attorney for a review for possible legal action. Grantham had district employees plan a baby shower for his wife, help him move, had them watch his children during working hours, and used school board property for his personal use, according to the report. Grantham resigned in September. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: A week after making landfall in Alabama near the Florida border, Hurricane Sally is still causing problems for the school district. Holm Elementary School, Workman Middle and Booker T. Washington High still don’t have Internet access. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said a part is needed to make repairs, and it’s expected to be in by Friday. WEAR.

Clay: Fifteen students have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the past week, according to district officials. Clay Today.

Leon: About 500 of the district’s 32,000 students have yet to appear in a classroom or sign into an online class. Superintendent Rocky Hanna said district workers are “knocking on doors and finding out trying to find out where these kids are and how we can get them the resources they need to engage with us.” The goal is to account for every students by the end of the first nine-week period. WTXL.

Bay: School officials are contacting families of students who have yet to log in for remote classes. About 4,500 students are enrolled in BayLink, which allows the students to stay enrolled in their assigned or chosen school but take classes remotely. If the unaccounted for students can’t be reached, the district will use a truancy officer to find them. Panama City News Herald. The school board has approved a contract renewal with PanCare and the Agency for Health Care administration to provide medical services for students. The contract, which was first signed in 2018, calls for two health-care technicians to be placed in every school to help provide screenings for the coronavirus and other issues, and administer medication and basic first aid. WJHG.

Okeechobee: Forty-three students and an employee from Central Elementary School in Okeechobee have been advised to go into quarantine for 14 days after a student tested positive for the coronavirus. WPEC.

Taylor: For the first time, the school district has placed an undisclosed number of students into quarantine after they were either exposed to someone with the coronavirus or showing symptoms. WTXL. WCTV.

Debate in schools: Florida’s Civics and Debate Initiative is now in 60 schools in 29 school districts with speech and debate programs and clubs. The program’s goal is to bring debate back into the schools as a way to look at issues and topics from multiple directions to get a better perspective. WFSU.

Education podcasts: Gina Riley, a clinical professor of adolescent special education at Hunter College and an author, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the difference between home-schooling and unschooling, self-directed learning and how it’s possible to integrate unschooling into a public school district. redefinED. John Millay, who was chosen by the Martin County School Board this week to become the district’s first appointed superintendent, talks about getting the job and what he hopes to accomplish. WPEC. Laura Meckler, a national education reporter for the Washington Post, talks with Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley about President Trump’s actions on education and the plans of his opponent, Democrat Joe Biden. NPR.

Opinions on schools: Some positives have emerged since we’ve been back in school. Students are excited to be back and have become more tech savvy and independent in their work habits. They have an enhanced appreciation for the importance of school, and grace and compassion are more abundant. Ali Binswanger, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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