Rapid coronavirus testing coming to schools, Miami-Dade begins reopening schools Monday, and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Rapid coronavirus tests: Florida is scheduled to begin receiving about 6.4 million rapid coronavirus test kits from the federal government. The Florida Division of Emergency Management will distribute about 400,000 kits a week to schools, senior centers and long-term care facilities, Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday. Test results can be available within 15 minutes after a nasal swab. The government requires the tests be performed by nurses, but DeSantis said the state will ask for a waiver because he doesn’t believe administering the tests is a good use of their time. DeSantis said the antigen test should eliminate the need for schools to quarantine students who have been exposed to the coronavirus while they wait for test results. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. A statewide coronavirus dashboard has been launched by the Florida Department of Health that includes the previous week’s reported cases and the cumulative total since Sept. 6. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. WTSP. WFTS. WKMG.

School reopening suit: The 1st District Court of Appeal has decided not to combine the state’s appeal of a ruling that its order to reopen schools was unconstitutional with its request to determine the standing of the Florida Education Association to bring the suit. The decision, handed down Tuesday, could clear the way for a quicker resolution to the original case. All the briefs have been filed in the appeal of Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s decision in August that the state unlawfully ordered districts to reopen. Dodson said the state ignored the constitutional requirement to provide safe schools and disregarded the constitutional authority of school boards to make decisions about their own systems. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Schools in Miami-Dade County will begin a one-week phased-in reopening on Monday, Broward’s school board will meet Thursday to consider reopening as early as Monday, a judge has ruled against Palm Beach County teachers who sued to stop the schools from reopening, the use of flags and banners at Duval County school events will be restricted, and a contract agreement is reached between Seminole teachers and the district. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: Schools will begin reopening for students in a staggered fashion beginning Monday, the school board decided Tuesday under the state’s threat of withholding funding. Pre-K, kindergarten, 1st grade students and those with disabilities who want to return to classrooms can, on Monday. The rest of elementary students, plus those in grades 6, 9 and 10, start Oct. 7, and all others Oct. 9. The board voted last week to phase in the return of students from Oct. 14-21, which prompted Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to order the district to reopen its schools by Monday or provide reasons why not for each school. “Either we lose $84 million and try to submit a revised reopening plan and hope it’s approved, or we go ahead and stay with what we originally submitted and open our schools on Oct. 5,” said school board member Susie Castillo. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: School board members will meet in an emergency session Thursday to discuss its response to the state’s demand that schools reopen Monday. Superintendent Robert Runcie had proposed an Oct. 5 reopening, but the school board voted last week to push that to Oct. 14 for some students and Oct. 20 for the rest. That vote triggered the state’s order. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WFOR. Dogs trained to detect guns could be used at schools under a proposal being considered by the school board. WFOR. A virtual physical education class at Cypress Bay High School in Weston was recently disrupted by hackers who showed pornography and made racist remarks. The district is investigating. WSVN.

Orange, central Florida: Band members could be required to wear masks with mouthpiece openings and and use bell covers for wind instruments under a proposal being considered by the school board. Students would also be required to masks during recess, under the proposed changes to the district policy. WKMG. WFTV. Some central Florida parents are criticizing the state’s decision to require students learning remotely to go to schools to take standardized assessments tests next spring. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: District teachers with health issues do not have the legal right to work from home, Palm Beach Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley ruled Tuesday. Seven teachers sued the district over the reopening of schools to students, saying it was unsafe. Kelley sympathized with the teachers, saying, “Placing high-risk individuals in a classroom may not be good policy. However, courts do not intervene because a policy is alleged to be ill-conceived or poorly implemented,” and added, “The court cannot second-guess the plan developed and implemented by the school board.” The district reopened its schools for students Sept. 22. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. An analysis of attendance since schools reopened last week shows a correlation between students attending classes in person and their race and economic standing. Children from affluent, largely white neighborhoods are returning to classrooms at a higher rate than minority children who live in lower-income areas. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Superintendent Diana Green is clamping down on what flags and banners will be permitted at school-sponsored events. Two weeks ago, Fletcher High School prohibited football players from carrying a thin blue line flag honoring police onto the field. Greene said the flags of the United States, Florida and military branches are the only flags that can be flown without approval from a school principal. WJXT. More than 7,700 students have requested a return to in-person teaching for the second quarter, while 1,618 have opted to change to remote learning. WJXT.

Polk: School officials announced Tuesday that despite the financial pressure brought on by the coronavirus, there will be no teacher layoffs or salary reductions at least through December. Districts around the state are asking the Department of Education to continue full funding for the whole school year despite enrollment declines. Polk is about 7,590 students short of its projected enrollment, and could lose at least $46.6 million if the state doesn’t offer that extension. Lakeland Ledger. The newest high school in the county now has a name, a mascot and school colors. Davenport High School will be known as the Broncos, and sport black and gold colors. The name was the preference of 58 percent of the 4,000-plus voters in a survey. The $86 million school is expected to open in August 2021 for 2,500 students, with academies for digital media and video/cinema production, hospitality and hotel management, including culinary arts, and landscape operations and horticulture. Lakeland Ledger. A 17-year-old Ridge Community High School student was arrested after allegedly taking a loaded gun on a school bus. Another student noticed the boy loading the gun and texted his parents, who called the Haines City police. Patch.

Pinellas: Twelve new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Pinellas schools over the weekend and on Monday, according to district officials. That brings the total of confirmed cases to 119, including 73 students, affecting 182 classrooms at 60 schools. Florida Politics.

Lee: A Fort Myers charter school that was stripped by the school board of its contract to operate has decided to fight the closure. The Collegiate School of Fort Myers, which was only open 12 days before the board’s unanimous vote on Sept. 16, has requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. Board attorneys expect the judge to rule on the issue within 60 days. In its vote, the school board cited the school’s failure to provide a safe and clean environment or proper instruction. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: The number of county high school students who graduated with International Baccalaureate and Cambridge diplomas in the spring more than doubled over the previous year, according to the district. The number of Cambridge graduates went from 51 in 2019 to 125 last year, while IB diplomas went up from 45 to 92. Florida Today.

Seminole: The school board has given tentative approval to a contract agreement with the teachers union to increase starting salaries to $46,310 a year, an increase of more than $6,000 a year. Veteran teachers will get a 1.4 percent increase. The Legislature approved $500 million to boost teacher pay, with 80 percent earmarked to increase starting salaries to $47,500, or as close as districts could get to that with their share of the money. Orlando Sentinel.

Manatee: More than 1,000 students and school district staff have now gone into quarantine after exposure to the coronavirus since schools reopened Aug. 17, according to district officials. Seventy-eight coronavirus cases have been reported among 36 campuses. Bradenton Herald.

Leon: The district has begun delivering meals to children at school bus stops. Six buses are making the drops in the area served by Fairview Middle School in south Tallahassee, but students from any school can pick up the free food. A majority of the students living in the area chose to attend classes from home instead of returning to schools. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Incumbent Superintendent Rocky Hanna and challenger Pam Hightower debated the issues in a virtual campaign forum. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: More than 20 percent of the students at Newberry High School are in quarantine after a junior varsity football team coach tested positive for the coronavirus. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: The volleyball coach at Arnold High School in Panama City Beach is under investigation and has been banned from the campus. District officials did not disclose the nature of the complaint against Alan Clements. Panama City News Herald. WMBB. WJHG.

Flagler: A former teacher of the year at the Imagine Schools Town Center charter school in Palm Coast has been arrested in Oregon and accused of possessing child pornography. Brett Cunningham, 40, taught 5th grade from 2008 to 2014. A spokeswoman for the school, Marisa Preuss, said, “During his employment, there were no reports of child pornography or inappropriate behavior with any of our students.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

More on the coronavirus: As the Trump administration pushed to reopen U.S. schools, its officials reportedly pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conclude that the coronavirus posed little risk to school-age children. New York Times. The U.S. Department of Education has told school districts that while they can’t make school reopening decisions based on students’ race, national origin or color, they can for students with disabilities based on their individual needs. Education Dive. Florida is the 41st-safest state in which to reopen schools, according to a report by the personal finance website WalletHub. Fifteen metrics were used to assemble the rankings, including the number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 children, the average class size and the ratio of students to nurses. WFOR.

Underpaid teachers: A recently released report from the Economic Policy Institute concludes that teachers earned about 19 percent less in 2019 than other workers with college degrees within each state. It’s a continuation of the earnings gap for teachers that began in the late 1960s and has been growing since. Florida had the 27th-largest gap, at 19.3 percent. Wyoming’s gap was the lowest, at 2 percent, and Virginia’s was the highest at 32.7 percent. USA Today.

Opinions on schools: Making education savings accounts a reality for every student would enable families to easily acquire real-time, external audits of their child’s learning. And it would likely foster a growth in the supply of such diagnostic tools in the market. Lindsey Burke, redefinED.

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