No end in sight to testing problem for high school seniors, USF closing College of Education and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Around the state: The state’s university Board of Governors has given no indication it will waive the requirements that students have an SAT or ACT score to apply even as tests are being canceled because of the coronavirus, applications are down significantly for several universities, the University of South Florida is ending its College of Education undergraduate program in a budget-cutting move, a school resource officer performs CPR to save a Hillsborough County student, the Alachua County School District is donating 40 old school buses to churches and nonprofits, and face mask policies get the attention of school boards in at least two districts. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Colleges and universities: The testing stalemate continues for many of Florida’s high school seniors. The state is one of the few that still requires students to submit an SAT or ACT score as part of their applications for admission. However, tests have been canceled repeatedly because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving students with fewer chances and less time to take them, and the Board of Governors has given no sign that it intends to waive the requirement. “It becomes more and more bizarre that Florida continues to hold out. Florida is the only state in the country where all of the state’s universities are insisting on test scores. There are no visible signs of movement,” said Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which opposes high-stakes testing. Meanwhile several universities are reporting that applications for admission are down sharply. “We are concerned about what we’re seeing,” said Gordon Chavis, the associate vice president of enrollment services at the University of Central Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. In a move to save money, the University of South Florida is eliminating its College of Education undergraduate program and replacing it with a graduate program for education. Once the transition is completed, students who want to be teachers will receive certificates after a fifth year that focuses on research and training. USF expects the move to save $6.8 million over the next two years. WUSF. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Miami-Dade: Twelve more Miami-Dade County School District employees at 11 schools have been infected with the coronavirus, the district reported Thursday. At least 80 schools have now reported coronavirus cases since schools reopened for students last week. Miami Herald. WPLG. WTVJ. Coral Park Elementary School reopened for students Thursday after being closed for a day by multiple coronavirus cases. WFOR. WTVJ. One-third of the nine seats on the Miami-Dade County School Board are on the ballot Nov. 3. WLRN.

Broward: At least six more students and seven employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, requiring the quarantining of dozens, according to district officials. At least seven schools were affected. Sun Sentinel. Thursday was the final phase of the staggered reopening of Broward’s schools for students, with grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 returning. About 25 percent of the district’s students are taking classes in-person, though it’s only about 15 percent of high school students. WTVJ. The widow of a Parkland school shooting victim is in the runoff for the District 9 seat on the Broward County School Board. WLRN.

Hillsborough: A school resource officer at Strawberry Crest High School performed CPR to save a student this week who had a seizure and stopped breathing in the cafeteria. Deputy Pedro Colon performed CPR for several minutes and got senior David Nieves breathing again. Nieves, who had open heart surgery when he was 3, said he was grateful to have been on campus and that Colon responded. “Had I not been in that lunchroom, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said after returning to school Thursday. WTVT. WFTS.

Orange: Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said it may be mid-November before the district decides whether to continue offering students its LaunchED learning option. The platform allows students to attend their classes on the regular school schedule through livestreaming. Jenkins said she’s waiting for guidance from the Department of Education before deciding. WKMG. School officials said the coronavirus testing program for high school athletes will continue into the winter season. Student-athletes competing in basketball, soccer, wrestling and possibly cheer would be tested two or three times a week. Orlando Sentinel. An after-school counselor was arrested and accused of sending nude photos to two middle school students. Gabriel Mills was a Boys and Girls Club counselor who worked in an after-school program at Ocoee Middle School. WESH.

Palm Beach: Forty-six students and 39 employees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since schools reopened four weeks ago. So far, no schools have been closed. County health director Dr. Alina Alonso credits the strict safety protocols, including contact tracing, and said the district has reported no cases of transmission between an infected person and anyone else in his or her classroom. Palm Beach Post. Online attendance has skyrocketed since remote learning began last spring, according to district records, with the biggest increases coming in poor neighborhoods where more a third of students skipped classes last spring. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: District officials said an off-campus homecoming party may be to blame for a coronavirus outbreak that closed Fletcher High School at least until Monday. The district’s protocol is to close a school only if 20 percent or more of the population have or virus or were exposed to it. Twenty percent of Fletcher’s enrollment is about 400 people. Dr. Pauline Rolle, the county health director, called the closure “preventative.” Florida Times-Union. WTLV. The J. Allen Axson Montessori School has temporarily closed a classroom of 1st- to 3rd-graders because of a coronavirus infection and subsequent quarantine. WJAX.

Lee: Incumbent Melisa Giovannelli is being challenged for her District 2 school board seat by Jeff McCullers, a retired district employee, in the Nov. 3 runoff election. Giovannelli said she wants greater transparency in district spending, and improvements in the graduation rate and employee retention. McCullers wants better wages for employees and an emphasis on teaching students life skills. Fort Myers News-Press.

Osceola: Another district teacher is under investigation for remarks made during classes that were captured on video and posted to Facebook. This time the topics were politics and the LGBTQ community. Earlier this week, another teacher was placed under investigation for saying she had a right to dislike black people because she had been attacked by a gang years ago. “Racism is never tolerated in our school district or our community,” said Superintendent Debra Pace. “It’s not appropriate and we understand that very, very much. At the same time, people are stressed, emotions are high and we know that sometimes things come out that shouldn’t have been said.” WESH.

Manatee: Three schools were affected by positive coronavirus tests of students and an employee on Thursday: a student tested positive at Abel Elementary School, which required placing 53 people under quarantine for two weeks; two students at Lakewood Ranch High School, with 13 quarantined; and a student and an employee at Miller Elementary School, with 19 people quarantined. Bradenton Herald. Jan Pullen, the head of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton, has tested positive for the coronavirus, she announced this week. She said she has few symptoms. Bradenton Herald. The school board has approved entering into negotiations to buy 30 acres of land for a middle school in the North River Ranch community of Parrish. Board members agreed to set aside a maximum of $2.5 million for the property. If the deal goes through, the school could admit students in the fall of 2024. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: Two retired educators face off Nov. 3 in the runoff for the District 4 seat on the school board. Mollie Cunningham, 59, wants to improve the academic performance of students and increase salaries for employees. Betsy Farner, 61, wants to raise the district’s graduation rate. Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: A Creekside High School is one of eight people in the world chosen by National Geographic Society as as “emerging explorer.” Ali Pressel, 39, teaches in the school’s Academy of Engineering and Environmental Sciences. She doesn’t know how she got nominated, and said, “My head’s spinning a bit. I’m still trying to digest the information.” Florida Times-Union.

Alachua: The school district is donating 40 retired school buses to churches, nonprofits and government agencies. Applications will be taken through Wednesday, and a random drawing will decide where the buses go. The district recently bought 80 buses, making the older ones expendable. Typically the district would auction them, but Superintendent Karen Clarke decided this year to donate them. “At our last bus auction in July, we netted $16,702 from the sale of 16 buses,” said district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson. “We believe the value to these organizations and the people they serve is far greater.” Gainesville Sun. WUFT.

Santa Rosa: Pace High School has the highest positive coronavirus rate of any school in Florida, according to the most recent report by the Florida Department of Health, but district officials said they have no plans to close the school, limit classes or change safety protocols. Pace has reported 45 cases, with 44 of them being students. District leaders said Pace has done a “great job” of following safety procedures. “We have put mitigation strategies in place. Pace High has been following all of the mitigation strategies, such as mask-wearing, and we also have additional seating at lunch. Some students can go to the gym, some can go to the courtyard, and there are hand sanitizer stations in every hallway. The halls are like roadways, they walk on the right, and they don’t allow any kind of congregating in between classes,” said Michele Barlow, director of student services. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: Two freestanding shelters from tornadoes are being planned for the Deane Bozeman School and Mowat Middle School. “Both of those schools have quite a bit of upgrades, from time and from hurricane repairs. Both of those will be additional facilities built on the schools that would be multipurpose,” said Lee Walters, the director of facilities. WMBB.

Indian River: The district’s policy on requiring students and employees to wear face masks on campuses when they cannot maintain a social distance remains unchanged after the school board declined Thursday to vote to make masks optional. Instead, board members ordered Superintendent David Moore to clarify when masks have to be worn on campuses and when they can be removed, and present a plan for the board to consider next month. The board heard from more than 700 members of the community in 11 hours over two days about the issue. TCPalm. Politico Florida. WPTV.

Citrus: The school board agreed unanimously to extend its policy requiring students, employees and visitors to wear face coverings on school properties. The board also approved the hiring of David Vincent to be the district’s deputy police chief for now and, by the end of the year, the police chief. He’ll replace the retiring Buddy Grant. Citrus County Chronicle.

Education podcasts: Education choice advocate Derrell Bradford talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about 50CAN, his national advocacy organization that supports choice policies on a state-by-state basis, and how to pay and reward teachers in a landscape of direct universal government assistance. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: When and if educational choice comes to be in a sustainable way, it will most likely do so in a variety of legal and economic forms from state to state. Vouchers that would subsidize and empower lower-income parents to exercise their legal right by paying tuition are merely the most simple and obvious remedy. John E. Coons, redefinED.

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