Appeals court rules for state on reopening, learning options, superintendent quarantines and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Reopening ruling overturned: The 1st District Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling by a Tallahassee judge who declared that the state exceeded its authority when it ordered districts to reopen school in August or risk losing state funding. The appeals court rejected the temporary injunction that had been issued to stop the reopening, as part of a lawsuit brought by the Florida Education Association alleging that Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s order was unconstitutional. “The trial court exceeded the constitutional limits of its authority by rewriting the commissioner’s order,” ruled the appeals court. It also wrote that “nothing in the emergency order requires any teacher or any student to return to the classroom,” that the FEA lacked the standing to bring the lawsuit and that the union was asking the court to decide “non-judicial political questions.” FEA president Andrew Spar said the union will ask for a rehearing. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Education Week.

Learning options: Parents will soon have to decide whether to send their children back into school classrooms for the second semester. But many who prefer online learning in which their children follow their classes and peers in real time are worried that their favorite option might no longer be available. The state guaranteed full per-pupil funding through December to districts for those students. But Education Commissioner Corcoran has not committed to extending that funding into the second semester and if he doesn’t, many districts probably won’t continue to offer it. Collier and Alachua school districts have already warned parents that the option might disappear. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Hillsborough County’s school superintendent is self-quarantining after being exposed to someone with the coronavirus, a portion of a road leading to a Miami high school is being renamed after Trayvon Martin, attendance was slightly higher than expected on the first day of classes in Broward schools, the Manatee County School Board is being asked to end one of the three learning options for students, about two-thirds of Volusia’s middle and high school students who are learning remotely have at least one D or F in a class, starting teacher salaries are raised in two more districts, a charter school has stopped reporting coronavirus cases to the district, and a rehired principal remains unapologetic for the actions that got him fired last year. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: More than 140,000 students returned to schools last week, and some of them brought the coronavirus with them. The district reported cases at four schools, but the teachers union said six were affected. Another case, at Flagami Elementary, was added Sunday night. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said none of the cases was linked to schools. He also said, “I personally inspected four schools (Friday) and we observed the best practices being followed by students and employees. I saw effective teaching and learning taking place across the schools that I visited.” Miami Herald. A portion of a road leading to Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Miami will soon carry the name of Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in 2012 by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford. Martin was a junior at the school, and was visiting his father in Sanford when he was confronted and shot by George Zimmerman. Miami Herald. WFOR. A 9th-grader at Alonzo & Tracy Mourning Senior High School in North Miami was turned away from a school bus on Friday because it had reached its capacity under social distancing guidelines. The boy walked a mile and a half home. District officials said it is investigating. WSVN.

Broward: About 25 percent of the district’s students attended classes Friday on the first day of the phased-in return. About 20 percent were expected, but 12,500 returned out of the 51,000 in special education and pre-K-2 classes. Students in grades 3-6 and 9th-graders return on Tuesday, and everyone else on Friday. Sun Sentinel. WLRN. Mold was found in about 20 district schools that had been closed since mid-March. “I wish I could say I’m shocked that the district has allowed mold and mildew to grow in classrooms, but I’m not,” said Nathalie Lynch-Walsh, the chair of the district’s Facilities Task Force. “Indoor air quality was clearly not a concern over the summer because no one was there.” Sun Sentinel. Cities have told the school district that the school zone flashing traffic lights around schools won’t work before Wednesday. “This is an epic fail by the Broward School District,” said teachers union president Anna Fusco. “The district failed to timely notify individual cities and municipalities when schools were opening and what their operating hours would be before school began on Friday, Oct. 9.” Miami Herald. A new freshman building was dedicated last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were shot to death in 2018. The $18 million building replaces the one where the massacre happened, though the old building is still standing because it’s considered evidence in the case against the accused gunman. Some parents are unhappy that the school plaque makes no mention of the victims. Superintendent Robert Runcie said there are 17 framed quotes in the hallway of the front office, with each one dedicated to a victim and including his or her name. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. An employee at Park Trails Elementary School in Parkland has tested positive, district officials have announced. Sun Sentinel. The Saints International Christian Athletic Association has assembled and distributed more than 1,000 homemade physical education class kits for students who are home-schooling. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis announced Sunday on Twitter that he is self-quarantining after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. Davis said he was tested twice in the past 24 hours and both came back negative, but that he would follow district protocol and quarantine for 14 days. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WTSP. The Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts reported a combined 178 cases of the coronavirus last week, which increases the total since schools opened to 884. Tampa Bay Times. Several of the eight candidates for the Hillsborough County School board races said the pandemic and the district’s budget crisis are making for difficult elections. In interviews, they talked about the problems and their aspirations if elected. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: More than 1,000 district teachers are teaching out of their field of expertise and certification, according to school records. The Florida Department of Education requires each district to submit records to confirm that there are no qualified teachers available before allowing other “out of field” instructors to step in. District officials said the number is “typical for any school year.” Boca News Now. William Latson, who was removed as a high school principal last year over remarks about the Holocaust but rehired last week with back pay, continues to insist he did nothing wrong. Latson said that deciding whether the Holocaust happened is a personal belief, and added, “Even though I believe the Holocaust existed, she (a parent) didn’t have the right to ask me that information, and I had the right not to answer.” Palm Beach Post.

Duval: One Ribault High School student has been arrested after reportedly shooting another in the arm on Friday at school in what a school board member is calling an accident. The victim was taken to a hospital with “non life-threatening” injury, said police. Both students are 18 years old. After the shooting, the school district announced that metal detectors would be place at Ribault High, starting today. WJXT. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. Kimberly M. Dennis of Fishweir Elementary School has been named the district’s elementary principal of the year. WJXT.

Brevard: Seventy-three new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in 34 county schools last week, leading to 670 people being quarantined. The previous week, there were 49 cases that required 455 students and employees to be quarantined. Florida Today. Five county schools have been named Florida Arts Model Schools by the Florida Alliance for Arts Education: Central Middle, John F. Kennedy Middle, Quest Elementary and South Lake Elementary for music, and Eau Gallie High for visual arts. Florida Today.

Volusia: About two-thirds of middle and high school students who are learning remotely have at least one D or F grade, according to the district. Officials have told the parents of these students that they’ll have to return to in-person classes within the next month because they aren’t making “adequate” progress. About 16,000 students are learning remotely through the Volusia Live format. About 65 percent of high school students and 67 percent of middle school students have at least one D or F grade in one or more of those classes. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: The school board is being asked by school officials to end the hybrid learning option for students in the second quarter. The hybrid schedule has students rotating between online and in-person classes and has an enrollment of 9,688, compared to 10,299 in virtual learning and 20,160 in-person students. Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said having three models makes it difficult to schedule classes. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. County health director Dr. Jennifer Bencie has warned school officials that with the expected migration of more students from online to in-person learning, they have to continue requiring masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing to avoid a surge in coronavirus cases. She said the positivity rate among students tested is about 12 percent. Nearly 100 cases have been confirmed, and more than 1,100 students and employees have been quarantined. Bradenton Herald. A new charter school has been proposed near the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport that would focus on the aeronautical industry. Team Success SRQ would open next fall with up to 750 students. Bradenton Herald. During a debate last week, the two candidates for the District 3 school board seat, incumbent Dave Miner and challenger Mary Foreman, agreed that the study of black history should be widened beyond slavery. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Collier: Starting salaries for teachers will be increased to $47,720, a boost of nearly $4,000 a year, after the school board approved the contract agreement between the school district and the union. The pay raises are retroactive to July 1, and will show up in teachers’ paychecks Oct. 30. Naples Daily News.

Sarasota: Twenty-one coronavirus cases were confirmed in the school district last week, with 279 students and 13 employees placed in quarantine. Since schools reopened Aug. 17, 58 students and 35 employees have tested positive, with 1,105 going into quarantine. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: A teacher at Evergreen Elementary School has been arrested and accused of molesting one of her 6-year-old students two years ago. Deputies said Christina Ruby Sanchez-Rodriguez, 30, has been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation. WPEC. WFTV.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: About 250 students and employees were sent into quarantine last week in the St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River school districts after coronavirus cases were reported at multiple schools. Last week, 176 students and employees were quarantined. TCPalm. Martin County School Board members will consider a proposed contract agreement between the district and its teachers that would raise starting teacher pay to nearly $45,000 a year. That would be an increase of more than $6,000 a year. WPTV.

Sumter: The Villages Charter School has stopped reporting coronavirus cases to the school district. A school official said the district was informed that the charter school officials were “doing their own contact tracing and exclusions.” Villages-News.

More on the coronavirus: Data collected on almost 200,000 kids in 47 states from the last two weeks of September has confirmed that schools have not been the superspreaders of the coronavirus that many feared. The data revealed an infection rate of 0.13 percent among students and 0.24 percent among employees, which is about 1.3 infections in a school of 1,000 kids or 2.2 infections in a group of 1,000 staff. The Atlantic. Health experts say the introduction of rapid-results coronavirus tests for schools alone won’t change the trajectory of the coronavirus spread. They say masks and social distancing are still necessary. Education Week.

Declining enrollments: Florida school districts aren’t the only ones wondering where all their students have gone. Districts around the country are reporting enrollment declines, most notably in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, apparently driven by the coronavirus pandemic. Some parents have abandoned their public schools for private or charter options, while others are trying home-schooling or hiring teachers for multi-family “pandemic pods.” Associated Press. NPR.

Promoting integration: The Miami-Dade County School District is one of more than two-dozen in the United States to join the Bridges Collaborative, which is promoting racial and economic integration of schools. “This is not some sort of a fringe group of a few integration allies,” said Stefan Lallinger, a former New York City schools official who’s leading the initiative. “This is a growing recognition across the country that our school system and our housing is unacceptably segregated in the year 2020, and it’s about time folks rolled their sleeves up and did something about it.” Chalkbeat.

Per-student spending: The U.S. Department of Education has launched a database that shows the total per-student funding in schools in 20 states, including Florida. The agency wants to “radically increase transparency as parents and local leaders seek to understand funding levels and differences between schools.” The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to provide the data on as part of its public “report card” for each education agency. T.H.E. Journal.

Opinions on schools: At the beginning of the school year, I heard from teachers about their fears of contracting COVID from their students or other school staff members. That danger has not faded away. But the talk about the medical hazard of teaching in a pandemic has been replaced with descriptions of learning environments in which it is nearly impossible to learn – or teach. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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