State demands reopenings: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has ordered the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts to reopen every school’s classrooms to students by Oct. 5 or provide exemptions on a school-by-school basis. In a letter to the districts, Cochran said he had “grave concerns” with their plans, that they “directly contradict” earlier plans submitted to and approved by the Department of Education, and that they go against the state’s emergency order to give parents the option to have their children in school classrooms for in-person instruction five days a week. The districts have until Thursday to respond. Both Miami-Dade and Broward announced last week that they would begin phased-in reopenings Oct. 14, with completion dates of Oct. 20 and 21. The Miami-Dade School Board meets Tuesday to consider its response to Corcoran. The Broward school board meets Oct. 6 to discuss its plan, but Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said he’s told Corcoran that he has no intention of changing the district’s plan. “We are doing everything that’s absolutely consistent with the approved reopening plan that we submitted to the state,” Runcie said. Miami Herald. WTVJ. Sun Sentinel. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.
Around the state: Revenue generated from a sales tax surcharge is picking up in Hillsborough and other tax measures go before other voters Nov. 3, Palm Beach parents may be asked to commit to a learning method by mid-October for the nine-week period that starts Nov. 4, a 12-year-old virtual student from Duval County has died of complications from the coronavirus, and a tentative contract agreement is reached between the Lake County School District and teachers. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:
Miami-Dade, Broward: The 15-year-old nephew of Miami Senior High School football coach Corey Smith has been arrested and accused of his murder last week. The boy had been living with Smith since his father, Smith’s brother, was killed in a shootout with police last December. WPLG. WFOR. A man has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison after admitting he bilked a retired Miami-Dade school teacher out of $425,447 from her retirement account. Michael Atkins, who had been charged with mail fraud and identity theft, was also ordered to repay the victim. Miami Herald.
Hillsborough: Tax collections are getting closer to expectations, which means more money from a half-cent sales surtax is available for the district to repair and replace schools. July’s tax collections were $8.76 million in July, just 3.2 percent below the $9 million brought in during July of 2019. The 10-year, half-cent sales surtax that voters approved in November 2018 is being used to pay for about $1.3 billion in capital projects. Tampa Bay Times. In an attempt to help students catch up, 26 district schools are holding Saturday classes through Nov. 21. “We’re working on a lot of foundational skills, vocabulary, phonics, comprehension, so we’re already seeing a change in what they’re able to do in each of those categories just in the short time since we started it,” said Rebecca Lantzman, a reading coach at DeSoto Elementary School. Bay News 9. A school security officer has been arrested and accused of child abuse against an autistic 9-year-old student at Knights Elementary School. Deputies said when the student became verbally disruptive, Michael Lashman, 57, aggressively pulled him through a doorway, striking his body against the frame, then pushed him against a wall. The student did not require medical treatment, but had minor swelling on the back of his head. Tampa Bay Times.
Orange, central Florida: Digneris Cirilo-Vego, a 2nd-grade LaunchED@Home teacher at Oak Hill Elementary School in Orlando, has died, according to a message sent to parents on Friday. No cause of death was given. She had been working from home since Aug. 18. Grief counselors will be available at the school today. WKMG. The state’s move into Phase 3 of the reopening plan won’t cause any immediate changes in safety precautions in central Florida schools, according to officials from those districts. WOFL.
Palm Beach: The school board will be asked this week to require parents to commit to either in-person or remote learning for the second quarter by mid-October. That second quarter begins Nov. 4. Deputy superintendent Keith Oswald said doing so would help principals with staffing and could create more virtual teaching positions, which in turn could eliminate the need for some teachers to handle in-person and virtual learners simultaneously. Palm Beach Post. Plexiglass desk shields that were promised to the district’s teachers have yet to arrive, but Superintendent Donald Fennoy and all school board members had one when they met last week. “I’m not pleased that the plexiglass was not in the classroom when the students came back,” said board chair Frank Barbieri. Palm Beach Post. A survey of educators, civic leaders and politicians indicates that 57 percent agree with the district’s decision to reopen schools to students last week. Palm Beach Post.
Duval: A 12-year-old student from Atlantic Beach has died of complications from the coronavirus. Elizabeth McNew, a virtual student at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School, is the youngest Duval resident to die from COVID-19. She became sick about two weeks ago, after her father and brother tested positive. Grief counselors will be available for students at the school today. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV. WJAX. Duval high school students who opted for in-person learning return to schools today, and the hybrid learning model of students being in school some days and learning remotely on others will end. WJXT. A mother of a student at Oceanway Middle School in Jacksonville said the school sent her autistic son home after he coughed to try to clear his throat and it was misinterpreted as a COVID-19 symptom. WTLV.
Polk: Seventy public schools have now reported 175 cases of the coronavirus since schools opened Aug. 24. The district does not say whether the cases are of students or employees. Lakeland Ledger.
Pinellas, Hernando: Both the Pinellas and Hernando school districts are asking voters Nov. 3 to approve an increase in property taxes to raise money for teacher pay raises and other needs. Voters in Pinellas first approved an extra 50 cents per $1,000 in property tax value in 2004. It raises about $50 million a year to support higher teacher pay, arts education, reading programs and classroom technology. Hernando officials are asking for $1 per $1,000 of taxable value, to raise about $11 million a year. Half the money would be used to boost staff pay, with 25 percent going to school safety improvements and mental health services, and the rest for technology and career education programs. Tampa Bay Times.
Lee: Lehigh Acres Middle School will move into a new building next fall, district officials said last week. The site was going to be home to a new middle school, to ease overcrowding at several schools in the east part of the county. But administrators decided it was better to put students from the overcrowded Leigh Middle into the new school than to rezone students from six other middle schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Three women have come forward to allege that a former teacher and basketball coach at the private Canterbury School in Fort Myers sexually abused or kissed them against their will when they were students in the 1990s. Terry Kelly, who left Canterbury in 2000, has denied the allegations. Fort Myers News-Press.
Brevard: A referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot would renew an extra half-cent in sales tax to raise money for repairs and upgrades to Brevard schools. The tax was first passed in 2014, and has generated more than $250 millions. If it’s approved again, it would continue through 2026. Florida Today. Forty-six new coronavirus cases and 326 quarantines were reported last week. Thirty-two of the new cases were of students. Florida Today. Enterprise Elementary School reopens today. It was closed last week after multiple coronavirus cases were reported. WFTV. WOFL.
Volusia, Flagler: Volusia students scored an average of 1061 out of a possible 1600 points on the SAT test last year. That bettered the previous year’s total of 1053, and was higher than the state average of 992 and the national average of 1051. In Flagler, the average score was 973, which was four points down from last year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The number of positive coronavirus tests in the Volusia and Flagler school districts reached 104 last week. Thirty-six students and 29 employees in Volusia has been infected since schools opened Aug. 31. In Flagler, 32 students and eight employees have tested positive since the first day of school Aug. 24. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Manatee: Two students at Tara Elementary School tested positive for the coronavirus last week, sending 38 students and employees into quarantine. The school has now had five cases, with 53 placed in isolation. Bradenton Herald.
Collier: The school district announced Friday that all face masks must be at least two layers thick. Health officials said that while most masks are already made with multiple layers, gaiters and buffs are not and will need to be doubled up for full protection. WINK. WFTX.
Sarasota: Superintendent Brennan Asplen is proposing to give teachers a break by converting two school days into workdays without students. The school board will vote next week on changing Oct. 12 and Nov. 18 into days that teachers can use to catch up. “They are working nonstop and require additional time to plan with colleagues, create lesson plans, and in some cases receive additional training with technology and concurrent teaching methods,” Asplen said in a letter to parents. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Lake: District officials and the teachers union have reached a tentative contract agreement that would raise the base pay of teachers to $44,750, an increase of $4,350, and give teachers already making that or more raises of 1 to 2 percent. The deal still has to be approved by the school board and union members. Orlando Sentinel. More than 1,140 students have opted to return to in-person instruction after starting the year learning remotely. The school district’s positive coronavirus case rate has been under 1 percent since schools reopened five weeks ago. Daily Commercial.
St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: The health of safety of students is a top priority for both Jack Kelly and James Anthony Monds Jr., the candidates for the District 2 seat on the St. Lucie School Board. TCPalm. In the St. Lucie School Board District 4 race, Jennifer Richardson is trying to unseat incumbent Kathryn Hensley, who is running for a seventh term. Both are advocating educational equity. TCPalm. More than 400 students in St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River were advised to go into quarantine last week. Martin sent home 321 students and an employee, St. Lucie 78 students and seven employees after nine students and three employees tested positive, and Indian River isolated 35 students after a student was infected. TCPalm.
Leon: The Florida High School Athletic Association is asking the Leon County Commission to reconsider the coronavirus testing requirements it approved last week. If it does, the FHSAA said, it will have to move the state cross country championships. “The current inaccuracies of false-positives, potential delays in results, the financial cost, and even the lack of availability for uniform testing across our state does not make this mandate feasible for the thousands of student-athletes at the high school level,” FHSAA director George Tomyn wrote to commissioners. The request is expected to be considered at Tuesday’s meeting. Tallahassee Democrat.
Okaloosa: County theater teachers have adjusted their routines to abide by coronavirus safety guidelines, and are preparing their students for spring productions. Last year’s were canceled by the pandemic, and teacher Ritchie Jackson of Niceville High School said, “They (the students) need this as much as I do. We are all mourning the loss of theater.” Northwest Florida Daily News.
Monroe: District officials said two schools in the middle Keys and one in the lower Keys have been advised to go into quarantine. No other information was released. Florida Keys Weekly.
Gadsden: The entire administrative staff at Stewart Elementary School is being quarantined after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus last week. The employees will return to the school Thursday. WTXL.
DeSoto: Seven students and two employees have tested positive for the coronavirus since schools reopened Aug. 17, leading to the quarantining of 141 students and eight employees. Charlotte Sun.
Washington: The school district has received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services School Violence Prevention Program. Superintendent Joe Taylor said the district will use the money to help create a single point of access into schools and to install fencing. WMBB.
More on the coronavirus: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said her department will abide by recent court decisions that struck down a rule requiring public school districts to share coronavirus relief aid with private schools. Earlier this month, a federal judge appointed by President Trump ruled that the rule disregarded the law and said, “In the end, it is difficult to imagine how Congress could have been clearer. The department’s arguments to the contrary do not change this straightforward conclusion.” Education Week. Chalkbeat. Districts continue to struggle with remote learning, but some best practices are emerging, according to a study from Bellwether Education Partners and Teach For America. Education Dive.
Vouchers and elections: Vouchers for students to attend private schools have become a campaign issue in state legislative races, with two supporters of the state scholarship program being voted out of office in the August primary. Money poured into those races and others from both voucher supporters and opponents. Orlando Sentinel.
Opinions on schools: Gov. Ron DeSantis has done as much as anybody, and more than most, to advance the party line that partying college kids are just reckless brats who refuse to take “personal responsibility.” In truth, the kids are alright. It’s the adults who need fixing. Miami Herald. What is the effect upon a young student of public education’s classic shunning of the greatest of all questions: Did a nonexistent physical world simply make itself out of nothing? John E. Coons, redefinED. Only two Florida school districts beat the national average in the rate that students take advanced math courses. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.