Private school aid, district reopening timetable, new schools, cradle-to-career pipeline urged and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Private school aid: A federal judge has struck down the U.S. Department of Education’s rule requiring school districts to share coronavirus relief funds with private schools. “Congress expressed a clear and unambiguous preference for apportioning funding to private schools based on the number of children from low-income families,” ruled Judge Dabney Friedrich, who was appointed by President Trump. She said the statute “cannot mean the opposite of what it says.” This is the third judge who has ruled against the department, though this decision was a final judgment that applies nationwide. It can be appealed to a higher court. A spokeswoman for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said department officials are “studying the decision and considering our options.” Chalkbeat. Education Week.

Around the state: The coronavirus has upended meal schedules at Florida schools, technical problems are continuing to plague districts, a birthday party led to the closing of an Orange County high school, a union wants a human resources director fired for not having a plan to move at-risk teachers to online roles, and the Leon school district will consider a cradle-to-career pipeline program for students from one ZIP code. Here are details about those stories and more news on school reopenings and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade, south Florida: Parents and teachers continued to report technical problems on Tuesday with the district’s online learning platform K12. “Unfortunately, today is still unreliable,” said Amanda Prieto, the mother of students in kindergarten and 3rd grade. “Both teachers have switched back to Zoom. For us, it’s not consistent and it’s not working, and teachers seem frustrated.” WPLG. A federal waiver has been issued that will allow students free school meals for the rest of the calendar year regardless of whether they meet federal financial eligibility requirements for discounts. WLRN.

Broward: Superintendent Robert Runcie said Tuesday that the “best-case scenario” for reopening classrooms to students, at least partially, would be sometime in October. At its Sept. 22 workshop meeting, the school board will discuss the conditions that will be required to have students return for face-to-face instruction. “All of us are anxious for our schools to reopen for face-to-face learning, as we know how important and critical the work of the district is in meeting the needs of our students and our families, but we must open in a way that is safe and in a way that is smart,” Runcie said. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Hillsborough: Superintendent Addison Davis said the district needs to build five new schools in the next five years, and 31 over the next 15 years, to keep up with exploding growth in the southern part of the county. That need is compounded, he said, by not having adequate roads at six potential building sites to handle that growth, which could lead to overcrowded schools and double sessions. WTVT. Tampa Bay Times. The district expects to hire 32 more school nurses and a pediatrician as part of its health services agreement with the health department. The plan is required by the state. The cost would be about $908,000 a year. WTSP.

Orange: Olympia High School was closed for two weeks after health officials traced some of the six coronavirus cases detected there to a birthday party attended by students. At least 13 students attended the party Aug. 29, said health officials. “The (school) board had to move an entire school into quarantine and distance learning because of a birthday party,” said Dr. Raul Pino, the county health officer. “Those are things that we should keep in mind and educate our children also that individual actions sometimes have community consequences.” Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. WMFE.

Palm Beach: Teachers union officials want the district’s Human Resources director to be removed for what they call a “shameful and intentional refusal” to help employees with health concerns find a way to work remotely when schools reopen. In a letter to Superintendent Donald Fennoy, union president Justin Katz said, “This was not a mistake. This was not an oversight or error of any kind. This was an intentional refusal to act on a valid concern that directly relates to the lives and safety of the district’s most vulnerable employees.” He said Gonzalo La Cava and his staff didn’t want to “create extra work.” After the letter arrived, the district set up an online application for those employees. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WLRN. WPTV.

Duval: Seven new school-related coronavirus cases were reported Tuesday at the district. The total number of infections since schools reopened is now 34 at 29 schools. The latest schools affected were Joseph Stilwell Middle, Merrill Road Elementary, Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center, Twin Lakes Elementary, Windy Hill Elementary, Enterprise Learning Academy and Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: The number of coronavirus cases now stands at 70 on 41 county campuses, with an undisclosed number of students and employees under quarantine. Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said county health officials urged the district to “cast a wide net” in quarantining to prevent secondary transmission. Lakeland Ledger. The Lakeland High School football team has canceled its first two games and suspended practices for two weeks because at least one person in the program tested positive. WFLA.

Pinellas: Teachers and parents vented at Tuesday’s school board meeting about the practice of  teaching students face-to-face and remotely at the same time, also known as concurrent or simultaneous teaching, and urged that it be abandoned. Instead, school board members and Superintendent Michael Grego proposed ways to make the teaching model work through more planning. The issue will be discussed further at the Sept. 14 meeting. Tampa Bay Times. WFTS. Five more schools have reported coronavirus cases, bring the school year to-date totals to 15 students and 16 employees. Forty-six classrooms, a bus and an unknown number of Palm Harbor University High School football players are quarantining. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee, Collier: Ten Lee County school alerts have been posted after an unknown number of positive coronavirus tests were reported. The district is alerting parents when a school is affected, not each time a new case is reported. In Collier County, no information about COVID-19 cases is being released by the district. “In the event that (the district) becomes aware of a COVID-19 positive case or potential exposure, we rely on (the county health department),” said district spokesman Chad Oliver. Fort Myers News-Press. Lee school board members are considering a settlement with a young woman who was sexually abused by a teacher in 2016. James Harris, who was a teacher and boys basketball coach at Mariner High School, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2019. WINK.

Brevard: Twenty-one students and employees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and at least 172 other people were quarantined during the first week of school. The report was released Tuesday by district officials, but its latest figures are a week old. Florida Today. Contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union resume Thursday. Union leaders said teacher pay, health insurance and parental leave are their priorities. Florida Today.

Osceola: More than 450 district students and employees from 36 schools have been asked to quarantine after contracting the coronavirus or being exposed to it since schools opened Aug. 24. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV.

Manatee: At least nine more district schools have reported coronavirus cases since last Friday. The latest schools affected are Braden River High, Williams Elementary, Southeast High, Lee Middle, Barbara A. Harvey Elementary, Abel Elementary, Parrish Community High, Prine Elementary and  Braden River Middle. District officials also said the coronavirus dashboard will soon be getting a makeover. Bradenton Herald. WTSP.

Lake: District students who have problems with the Chromebooks provided by the district can have them repaired free of charge until Sept. 14, according to school officials. Students are also encouraged to turn in devices they no longer need. Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: Plans for a new high school have been approved by the school board. High School III is expected to open for the 2022-2023 school year in the Twin Creeks development in the northeast part of the county. WJXT. WJAX. Teachers in St. Johns County have joined others from around the state complaining about being asked to teach students both in the classroom and from home simultaneously. The practice is called concurrent teaching, and teachers say they’re overworked and frustrated by it. “We knew it would be rough,” said teachers union president Michelle Dillon. “We knew it would have challenges. I had no idea how very challenging it would be until we completed the first week of school.” WJXT. Thirty district teachers and 11 other school employees have taken one-year leaves of absence because of the coronavirus. St. Augustine Record. WJXT.

Sarasota: School board members voted 3-2 to approve a nearly $900 million budget at Tuesday’s meeting. Bridget Ziegler and Eric Robinson voted no, contending that the board needed to cut spending now rather than amend the budget later. The budget includes about $507 million in the general fund, $324 million for capital spending and the rest scattered among several other categories such as debt and reserves. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. Three coronavirus testing sites have opened for district students and staff, and the district is now posting updates on cases on its website. The dashboard showed that five positive tests have been reported since schools reopened, at Brentwood Elementary, Laurel Nokomis School, Phillippi Shores Elementary and Riverview High. WWSB.

Marion: Riley Rowe, a recent graduate of Belleview High School, has become the first county student to be named the president of the state’s Future Farmers of America. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: The district’s policy on face masks was revised by the school board Tuesday. Everyone on school property must wear a mask or a face shield, and the masks can’t have any offensive words or graphics. Students can be taken out of school and assigned to remote learning for refusing to wear a mask in school or on a school bus. The policy lists 10 exceptions. WPEC.

Leon: School board member Darryl Jones is proposing that a cradle-to-career pipeline be developed for students at schools in the county’s poorest ZIP code, 32304. Jones wants a task force developed that will monitor students from that neighborhood and intercede to provide students career opportunities through an expanded Lively Vocational Technical College. Tallahassee Democrat. The district’s coronavirus dashboard is now online, and will be updated daily, said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. WTXL.

Bay: School board members discussed changes in purchasing protocols during Tuesday’s workshop meeting, less than three weeks after federal officials subpoenaed records related to several companies and district projects. Among the topics were the purchasing power of the superintendent and board, the bidding process and the auditing process. WJHG. Eighteen positive coronavirus tests at 13 schools have been reported since classes resumed three weeks ago and 195 people have been quarantined, according to district officials. WMBB.

Martin: Seventeen Indiantown Middle School students have been ordered to quarantine, district officials said Tuesday. That brings the total number of district students being quarantined to more than 400 since schools reopened Aug. 11. TCPalm.

Indian River: Positive coronavirus tests were reported Tuesday at three county schools: a student at Oslo Middle School and employees at Vero Beach Elementary and Gifford Middle. Thirty-two Gifford students and 19 at Oslo will be quarantined. WPEC. Gifford Middle School in Vero Beach remains under a boil-water order after an underground water line broke on Friday. Health officials are testing the water, which could take another day or two. TCPalm.

Citrus: Officials at Seven Rivers Christian School in Lecanto have announced that the school would close for two weeks and reopen Sept. 21 after several cases of coronavirus have been reported. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Six students and one teacher at Old Kings Elementary School have tested positive for the coronavirus, and two kindergarten classes have been quarantined. There have now been 14 positive tests at the school, and 28 districtwide. Flagler Live.

Opinions on schools: Democrats often express a desire to reduce wealth inequality. Republicans speak often of expanding educational choices for disadvantaged parents. Progressive children’s savings account programs can advance both principles and should be a solution that both sides can support. Dan Lips, redefinED. If schools don’t reopen, whether because of a strike or a state or district decision, the taxpayer money that funds those schools should go to the impacted students and families. Katherine Kellett Bathgate, redefinED. During normal times, mental health is one of the biggest concerns for our students. The stress and anxiety of the pandemic only adds to the problem. If our students are expected to adjust to these new norms and be successful, this issue must be addressed immediately and not after they exhibit negative behaviors. Debra Hixon, Sun Sentinel.

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