Miami-Dade and Broward delay reopenings, ‘rigor gap,’ charter laws, ‘netiquette’ tips for parents and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Florida’s “rigor gap”: The state has a “rigor gap” between the grades students are receiving and their mastery of content they show in their end-of-course exams in algebra I and 10th-grade English Language Arts, according to a report issued by the Florida Council of 100. Thirty-seven percent of the students who failed the English exam and 12 percent who failed the algebra exam received grades of B or higher in those courses. The study was based on three years of results before the coronavirus pandemic, and the researchers think those gaps have probably widened further. “The COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated gaps in student achievement,” said Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, “so it is imperative that all students, especially low-income students, students with special needs, English Language Learner, and other struggling students are given the supports and honest learning feedback to achieve their individualized educational dreams.” redefinED.

Charter school laws: Florida ranks fifth among U.S. states and the District of Columbia with the most favorable laws to allow the creation and governing of charter schools, according to an analysis by the Center for Education Reform. That’s an improvement of three places since the 2018 rankings. Florida was rated the best for not having caps for charters and for its ability to scale up, and second for school autonomy, freedom to innovate and teacher freedom. Arizona’s laws were rated the best at fostering “the creation of diverse, independent public schools that provide a maximum number of families with options,” followed by the District of Columbia, Michigan, Minnesota and Florida. American School & University.

Around the state: The Miami-Dade and Broward school boards decide to delay the reopening of schools by two more weeks, Hillsborough school board members object to the superintendent’s call to cut staff, an Orange County middle school’s name will change from a Confederate general to a baseball Hall-of-Famer and humanitarian, simultaneous instruction continues to be a source of discontent for teachers, Marion County parents get a lesson in “netiquette,” a Leon County school is closing for two weeks because it doesn’t have enough teachers, and the Martin County School Board has chosen its new superintendent. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: School board members voted Tuesday to reopen schools Oct. 14 for pre-K, kindergarten, 1st grade and students with special needs. Students in grades 6, 9 and 10 who chose in-person instruction will return to classrooms Oct. 15, and the rest would begin Oct. 21. About 51 percent of the district’s students have opted for in-person instruction. The board made the decision to delay Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s plan to reopen by two weeks after hearing about 18 hours of public comment from parents who argued against reopening. The board meeting lasted nearly 29 hours. Miami Herald. WLRN. WFOR. WPLG. WSVN.

Broward: The reopening of schools has been delayed again, as school board members decided Superintendent Robert Runcie’s plan needed more work. He had proposed a phased-in return starting Oct. 5, with other students beginning Oct. 12. But the board tentatively approved a change to start schools Oct. 14, 15 or 16 for students in pre-K, kindergarten and 1st, 2nd, 6th and 9th grades, and for special needs students, then having everyone else who chose in-person learning to return Oct. 20. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. A former district employee has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for accepting bribes from a contractor in exchange for work. Richard Allen Ellis Jr., 50, a supervisor for the physical plant operations division, had pleaded guilty in July of accepting more than $6,000. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: A majority of school board members expressed concern Tuesday about the impact of planned staff cutbacks that Superintendent Addison Davis warned are coming. Davis has said the district has more teachers than it needs for its enrollment, and he wants to cut positions over the next two years. Some board members questioned Davis’ financial presentation, while others wondered if he was spending more on administrators than former superintendent Jeff Eakins did, and some suggested dropping the 5 percent goal for reserves to the 3 percent minimum the state requires. They also worried that cuts will further erode staff morale that has taken a hit during the pandemic. Deputy superintendent Michael Kemp pushed back against the criticism, saying, “You can shoot the messenger, but the message remains the same. Tough decisions have to be made.” Davis did vow to keep popular electives, such as the arts. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA. WFTS. Four more Newsome High School students tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. Eleven cases were detected at the school last week. Across the district, the infections of 19 students and five employees were reported Monday. Florida Politics.

Orange: Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Orlando has a new name: Roberto Clemente Middle School. The school board made the decision unanimously on Tuesday to switch the school’s name from a Confederate general to a native of Puerto Rico who was a Marine, a baseball Hall-of-Famer and a humanitarian who died in a plane crash in 1972 while delivering relief supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. More than 15,700 students will switch to in-person instruction in the next quarter, while nearly 1,000 will change to remote learning. WFTV.

Palm Beach: Another 900 teachers didn’t report to work on Tuesday, using sick leave or other personal time, according to district officials. More than 940 didn’t return to work on Monday, the first day schools were reopened for in-person instruction. Finding substitutes has been a challenge, leaving many classes being monitored by nonteaching employees. Palm Beach Post. School officials said they have made some safety “adjustments” after a photo of a crowded hallway of students at Boca Raton Community High School from the first day of in-person schooling made it to social media. Students were trying to get out of the rain when the photo was taken. Sun Sentinel. WPEC.

Duval: Nearly 25 percent of the requests for substitute teachers and paraprofessionals have gone unfilled since schools reopened,. district officials have reported. Almost 10,000 requests have been made, and 2,373 were not able to be filled. WJAX. A Fletcher High School football player has been told he can no longer carry a police remembrance flag onto the field at each game as a memorial to his late father. Principal Dean Ledford said the act, which had been allowed for a year, has become a political statement that doesn’t represent the school. WTLV.

Polk: Multiple duties are starting to take their toll on Polk teachers and other employees, they say. A physical education teacher has to create lesson plans for 300 students who are physically at school and another 300 attending online. Another teacher has both in-person and online students to attend to as well as managing the technology, a school bus driver drives, polices students on wearing masks and using hand sanitizer, and cleans her bus with disinfectant after every run. These issues and more will be discussed at a contract bargaining session today. Lakeland Ledger. Eight new cases of the coronavirus on seven campuses were reported by the school district Monday, bringing the total to 148 cases at 66 of the district’s 150 schools. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: School board members approved a plan to raise teacher pay. About $3.2 million of the $17 million the district is getting from the state will be used to boost pay for 1,880 teachers to $47,500 a year. About $12.7 million would go to increase salaries by 3.3 percent for veteran and pre-K teachers, counselors, media specialists and other teachers who are not assigned to a classroom. The rest, about $1.15 million, would go to charter schools. The union has yet to consider the proposal, but the board pushed it through because its pay plans are due to the state by Oct. 1. Tampa Bay Times. Two school board members were critical of the administration for its handling of teachers complaints about being required to teach in-person and online students simultaneously. Deputy superintendent William Corbett said 60 to 70 teachers struggling with the workload have been identified and are getting more resources, training or electronic devices. WTSP. Fifty-four schools have now reported cases of the coronavirus. Florida Politics. Administrators at the Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School in St. Petersburg denied that students have been told to wipe down tables with bleach but without protective gear, as alleged by a parent. WFLA.

Brevard: Merritt Island Christian School has been closed for two weeks after eight positive coronavirus tests were confirmed. Three students, four teachers and another employee tested positive last week, and officials decided to close the 270-student school until Oct. 6. Florida Today. WKMG.

Lee, Collier: Three parents have filed a lawsuit challenging the Lee County School District’s requirement that students wear masks. The mandate violates Florida’s constitution, said the parents’ attorney, Patrick Leduc, because it offers one group of students a lesser education if they don’t want to wear a mask. WINK. WFTX. Thirty-six coronavirus alerts have been reported in the Lee County School District, and 24 in Collier County schools. Only one school, Lee’s Gateway Elementary, has been forced to close for two weeks. Fort Myers News-Press.

Seminole: A 12-year-old student was responsible for making a false threat to Millennium Middle School on Tuesday, according to sheriff’s deputies. No charges were filed, and sheriff’s spokesman Bob Kealing said, “Based on the totality of circumstances, from this point, the matter will be handled at the school-district level.” Orlando Sentinel. WOFL.

Manatee: Bayshore High School in Bradenton reported its first positive coronavirus test this week. Seventy cases have now been reported since schools reopened, resulting in 878 people being put into quarantine. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: Superintendent Diane Kornegay received high marks from the school board in her annual evaluation. The board decided to use previous student performance for the evaluation, due to the interruption in learning this year because of the pandemic. She was graded at a 4.61 on a 5-point scale, and will receive a bonus of $4,250. Daily Commercial. Fourteen seniors in the Leesburg High School Construction Academy are about to start working on the academy’s second house for Habitat for Humanity. It will be a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home for a single mother and her 13-year-old son. Daily Commercial.

Sarasota: More than three-quarters of the district’s teachers are unhappy being required to provide simultaneous learning to in-person and online students and say it’s an ineffective form of instruction, according to surveys conducted by both the district and the teachers union. Only 6 percent of teachers in the union survey called the practice, also known as concurrent instruction, an effective learning tool. Most said they’re bogged down by technology glitches and a lack of preparation time. District leaders said they are working on making more time available for teachers to prepare. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: School officials have put together a four-minute video to guide parents on what not to do if their children are learning from home. The “Online Netiquette” video was prompted by reports of parents seen online clad only in their underwear or cursing. “These few minutes learning the basics of ‘netiquette’ will pay off with high quality learning for everyone involved,” said Bethany Crawford, Forest High School principal. “Thanks for helping us help your child to succeed.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: When Escambia schools reopen today, families in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sally can get Internet hot spots to use for both remote learning and assignments for those students who are in classrooms. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas also said some students may have to be moved around, especially at Holm Elementary, because of damage to some classrooms. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Florida State University Schools has shifted to remote learning for all middle and high school students because it said it doesn’t have enough teachers to cover all the classrooms. “The impact of quarantining while supporting our distance learning teachers, managing regular absences and managing regular non-COVID illness absences is great,” said school officials in a message to parents. “Despite hiring 15 additional teaching assistants and extra substitute teachers to assist us, we simply do not have adequate coverage for classrooms at this time.” Students in grades 6-12 can return to the campus Oct. 13. WTXL. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. Eleven Leon High School football players have been put into quarantine after a member of the team tested positive for the coronavirus. The team’s next two games have been canceled. WTXL.

Alachua: Teachers say simultaneous teaching, in which they are instructing in-person and online students at the same time, has been called a “complex nightmare” by one. They cite the burden of preparing and teaching both, and the ongoing technical issues with the so-called Hyflex method of instruction. “People that love their job are so exhausted, working from morning to night, trying to prepare for this outrageous teaching assignment,” said union president Carmen Ward. “Every teacher wants to be successful, and they are not. They are just discouraged. What they have been asked to do is pretty impossible.” She said 23 teachers have retired since July, compared with only seven for the last school year. Gainesville Sun.

Martin: John Millay is the school board’s choice as school superintendent. Millay, the former superintendent of Meade County School District in Brandenburg, was selected over three other finalists in a 3-2 vote. He’s expected to begin work Nov. 17, when Superintendent Laurie Gaylord’s term ends. Voters decided in 2018 to switch from an elected superintendent to an appointed one. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC. Sixty-seven students and an employee from Jensen Beach High School will work remotely for two weeks after being placed into quarantine. The school also postponed its football game scheduled for Friday. WPEC.

Indian River: A student at Vero Beach High School tested positive for the coronavirus, school officials said Tuesday, and 35 students will be quarantined for 14 days. WPEC.

Charlotte: Teachers say they were excluded from the discussions when the district put together plans to offer a remote learning program that allows students to remain enrolled in their assigned or chosen school while learning from home. “We could’ve put together a task force for different needs and done this thing right,” said union president John Jordan. The district released a statement that read, “We created the new model the best we could within the timeframe we had. There are many decisions made throughout the school year. Some of them are made with union members sitting at the table and some are not.” WFTX.

Citrus: More than half the iPads handed out by the school district last spring have been recovered, district officials said. About 1,500 hadn’t been returned, but that number is now down to 688. To make sure every student who needed an iPad got one, the school board recently agreed to spend $343,000 to lease another 1,000 of the devices. Citrus County Chronicle.

Franklin: Several players on the Franklin County School football team have been exposed to the coronavirus and have been placed under quarantine, and the school has canceled its next two games. WMBB.

More on the coronavirus: Some Florida students and teachers who test positive for the coronavirus while being quarantined are not being included in districts’ totals, according to a report. WFTX. A report issued Monday by the federal Government Accountability Office said a “lack of cogent, clear and consistent federal guidance on the operating status of K-12 schools (is) an area of concern.” It blamed the inconsistent reopening guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some U.S. Department of Education guidance that was “misaligned with risk-based decision-making.” The report’s conclusions echoed those from a report issued last week by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Education Dive. The National Parents Union has handed out 37 small grants recently to parents and teachers so they can form small learning pods that promote equity by specializing in specific themes and courses reflecting the students’ backgrounds and interests. “Parents have always just had to take what they get,” said Keri Rodrigues, the union’s co-founder and president. “What we are hearing is parents saying, ‘Well, if by necessity I have to step in, why not do what I’ve always wanted to do?’ ” The 74. In many U.S. school districts, as many as 10 percent of the kindergartners expected to return to school didn’t. Chalkbeat.

School reopening lawsuit: Should the state’s appeal of a decision by a circuit judge that the state’s school reopening order was unconstitutional be heard at the same time by the First District Court of Appeal as the Florida Education Association’s request for an injunction to uphold the ruling? In briefs filed Monday, the state argued yes because the issues are intertwined, and the union no because they are different questions. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: For the rest of this school year, state agencies should not be allowed to apply restrictions on learning pods. Next year, state lawmakers can align state policies on homeschooling, private schools and other private learning options such as education savings accounts or K-12 private school scholarships with pods and micro-schools so that parents can make informed choices about the best learning option for their child. Jonathan Butcher, redefinED. It’s not the role of public schools to promote patriotism. Instead, it would seem the height of patriotism for schools to share the totality of our history with coming generations – including current events resulting from our previous omissions – so their greater understanding might bring us closer to the ideals our forefathers conceived of. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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