Coronavirus reporting, state finances, ‘gap map,’ testing athletes, remote jobs, lost lessons and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Coronavirus reporting: The Florida Department of Health’s directive that school districts should not be releasing coronavirus information is being widely ignored by many districts that are reporting totals daily, several times a week or weekly. The department said that information is confidential, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the K-12 data “needs to be put in the right context.” He added, “These cases get spun as if they’re clinically significant. Could you imagine if we carpet-bombed every school, K through 12, for flu tests?” But many superintendents, districts and school boards have decided that at least some information should be released. “We don’t want to get into any trouble, but we think transparency is the best way to go,” said Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt. Politico Florida.

State budget concerns: While the state can expect lower-than-projected revenues through 2025 because of the coronavirus and the economic recession it triggered, including more than $5 billion over the next two years, state economists told the Joint Legislative Budget Commission on Thursday that the long-term outlook is improving. Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said the presumption that a coronavirus vaccine would be widely available before next July is expected to help with the recovery of the economy. An exception would be the tourism industry, which Baker said could take two to three years to recover. Funding for schools is heavily dependent on sales tax revenues. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Politics.

Chamber’s ‘gap map’: The Florida Chamber of Commerce has introduced an educational dashboard that can pinpoint neighborhoods where 3rd-grade students are struggling with reading. The Florida Gap Map overlays those children and their schools with poverty maps to show business leaders where to concentrate their efforts toward reaching the chamber’s goal of having 100 percent of 3rd-graders reading at grade level by 2030. Chamber CEO Mark Wilson said the group wants to become the 10th largest economy in the world in the next decade, but that can’t happen unless all 3rd-graders are reading at grade level and childhood poverty is cut in half. WLRN. Florida Politics. WJCT.

Testing requirements: Florida and Wyoming are the only two states that still require high school students to submit SAT or ACT test scores as part of their applications to colleges and universities, according to FairTest: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing. Parents, students and counselors have been lobbying the state to drop the requirement, since fewer students have been able to take the tests because they’ve been canceled by the pandemic. “Without that temporary relief, there are going to be a lot of students that are not going to gain admission because they can’t meet the requirements,” said Gordon Chavis, the associate vice president of enrollment services at the University of Central Florida. The Board of Governors would have to approve a change. Orlando Sentinel.

Around the state: The Orange County School District announces it will test every school’s football players, coaches and athletic director for the coronavirus before each game, more than 1,200 Palm Beach County employees are asking to be given a remote job, Hernando County educators and community leaders begin a campaign to pass a property tax hike for schools, Florida physicians are pushing the state to adopt rapid-results coronavirus tests for schools, and the state’s bill for fighting a lawsuit against its school reopening order is $865,000 and counting. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: After the school board ended the use of the K12 online learning platform on Wednesday morning because of ongoing technical problems, teachers and families in younger grades discovered Thursday that lesson plans were already gone and the link to K12 had redirected them to another website. “It would have been best to provide us with a day to transition,” said one teacher. “The decision was done expeditiously in order to avoid further disruption that could result in additional loss of learning, which continues to be our priority,” said district spokeswoman Jackie Calzadilla. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: Ten students tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, four of them at Walker Middle Magnet School. It’s the highest single-day total so far in the district. Seventy-two cases have now been reported since classrooms opened for students, with 48 of them being students. Florida Politics. The district has added a Spanish hotline to help the 30 percent of district students’ parents who don’t speak English. Fifteen bilingual workers are getting about 80 calls a day for help with connecting their children for remote learning, help with transportation and more. WFLA. A family of bobcats was caught on camera Thursday playing in a field behind Davidsen Middle School in Westchase. WTVT.

Orange: The school district announced Thursday that it would administer coronavirus tests to football players, coaches and athletic directors at every public school in the county a few days before each game. Anyone who refuses the take the rapid-result test will not be permitted to play. WKMG. WFTV.

Palm Beach: School board members are demanding changes in the district’s process to determine how to sort requests from at-risk teachers who want to work remotely instead of in the classroom. Administrators just began the process of taking requests from teachers, and already more than 1,200 are asking for a remote position when in-person instruction resumes Sept. 21. Board chair Frank Barbieri had harsh words for district officials for their lack of communication on this issue and others, and said, “There seems to be a disconnect. Communications is putting a lot of information out there, but it doesn’t seem to be getting out there.” Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. About 40 percent of the district’s students said in a survey that they will continue with remote learning instead of returning to classrooms Sept. 21. About a quarter of students have yet to choose. Palm Beach Post.

Pinellas: Eight more cases of coronavirus at six schools have been confirmed by district officials. Two students tested positive at McMullen-Booth Elementary School, leading to quarantine orders for two classrooms and a bus. A student and an employee tested positive at Douglas Jamerson Elementary School, and a student at Westgate Elementary, with one classroom in each school quarantined. Cases were also reported at Boca Ciega High, Kings Highway Elementary and Clearwater Intermediate, but no quarantines were ordered. And the private Northside Christian School closed grades 7-12 on Thursday for cleaning after two siblings tested positive. Thirty-five were quarantined, and school resumes today. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: A 14-year-student at Island Coast High School has been arrested by Cape Coral police and accused of making threats against three teachers during private teleconferencing chats. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Pasco: Hundreds of students have been quarantined in the past two weeks after contracting the coronavirus or having close contact with someone who did, and several high school football games have been canceled. WFLA. Contract negotiations began Thursday with complaints from teachers about students eating breakfast in their classrooms. “People are not okay with breakfast in the classroom,” said Lynn Cavall, the union’s lead negotiator. “They think it’s a safety issue” because students are in small spaces without face masks. It was one of the issues raised in a six-page union proposal on safety conditions. The meeting ended prematurely when some participants in the Zoom call lost power. Talks resume Sept. 16. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Eighteen Brevard County high school seniors have been named semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships. Six of the students are from West Shore Jr./Sr. High School in Melbourne, three from Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, two apiece from Viera High, Satellite High, Edgewood Jr./Sr. High, one each from Melbourne Central Catholic High and Titusville High, and one home-schooler. Florida Today.

Manatee: Students at Bashaw Elementary School and Braden River High have tested positive for the coronavirus, and district officials said 34 people were exposed. The district now has reported 51 cases in 28 traditional public schools, and several more cases at three charter schools. Bradenton Herald. Manatee Elementary School in Bradenton is now home to a health center for its 500 students and members of the community. The district is partnering with Manatee County Rural Health Services, which has set up three portable rooms for basic medical services, for behavioral health and for community members. WTSP. Bradenton Herald. WWSB. Free meals will be provided starting Monday for students 18 and younger, regardless of whether they’re in school or learning remotely. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: A student at North Port High School has tested positive, according to the district’s coronavirus dashboard. That’s seven cases confirmed since schools reopened Aug. 31. Charlotte Sun.

St. Lucie: Two students at Treasure Coast High tested positive for the coronavirus, sending 44 students and four employees into quarantine, and 11 employees from Allapattah Flats K8 are also in isolation after one employee tested positive. Almost 300 students and 55 employees have been placed into quarantine since schools opened Aug. 24. TCPalm.

Clay: A weekly coronavirus dashboard is in the works, district officials said, though it will only have self-reported positive tests since health officials have advised that information about COVID-19 cases should remain confidential. WJXT.

Leon: The district ranks third among the state’s 67 traditional school districts for the number of black principals per school. Four of the county’s 16 black principals talk about addressing summer protests of students, the importance of education and the impact of the coronavirus on their schools. Tallahassee Democrat. Thirty-six district teachers have recently resigned, district officials said. “We already had a teacher shortage. This kind of exasperated that problem,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. “But our principals are working through it.” WTXL.

Bay: School board members have approved a budget of more than $567 million, which is about $118 million higher than last year’s. WJHG.

Hernando: Educators and community leaders have launched a campaign to try to convince voters to approve a four-year property tax hike when they vote Nov. 3. The extra $1 for every $1,000 in taxable value would raise about $11 million a year, and would be used to raise teacher pay, improve school security, and expand mental health services and career education programs. Tampa Bay Times.

Martin: One of the five finalists for the school superintendent’s job has withdrawn his name from consideration. The decision by Thomas Phelps, the deputy superintendent of human services and operations for the Osceola County School District, leaves the following candidates: John Millay, a former school superintendent in Brandenburg, Ky.; Lori Romano, the director of career, technical and adult education programs in Pasco County; Peter Licata, Palm Beach County regional superintendent; and Michael Dunsmore, adjunct professor at East Carolina University in North Carolina. Candidate interviews begin next week. TCPalm. Ten students from Anderson Middle School in Stuart have been quarantined because they either have the virus or came into contact with someone who did. More than 430 county students have been placed under quarantine orders since schools opened Aug. 11. TCPalm.

Indian River: Two students at Vero Beach Elementary School have tested positive for the coronavirus, district officials announced.  Tracers found 19 students who had close contact with their infected classmates, and they will be quarantined for 14 days. WPEC. TCPalm.

Charters closing gap: In the past 12 years, charter school students have cut into the achievement gap against their public school peers in reading and math, according to a study published this week in Education Next. Using results from National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, researchers concluded that charter students made about twice the gains as students from traditional district schools. The 74.

Sex offender rule upheld: A challenge to a Miami-Dade County ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school has been dismissed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Bloomberg Law.

Opinions on schools: Parents are worried enough these days. They shouldn’t have to play guessing games about coronavirus trends in the neighborhood schools. Orlando Sentinel. There is a need to address the costs — both fiscal and human — of Florida’s increasing presence of police in schools. There is a need to address state law that limits the autonomy of local districts to choose whether armed individuals are appropriate in their schools, and for schools that choose to have police present, to review policies and practices related to their use. F. Chris Curran, Gainesville Sun.

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