Coronavirus cases surging in schools, quarantine call error, coach accused of PPP fraud, and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Around the state: Coronavirus cases are surging at school districts around the state, a championship basketball coach in Broward County is accused of stealing almost $1 million in federal coronavirus aid, students from another Orange County school reported to class the day after they were supposed to have received a message ordering them to quarantine, rapid-results coronavirus tests will be available in the Palm Beach County School District after Thanksgiving, an incoming Palm Beach County School Board member has helped buy a house outside the district she was elected to represent, and some parents said that if the Duval HomeRoom virtual learning option is removed from the district next semester, they’ll pull their children out of schools. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade, South Florida: The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise rapidly in the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts, and is also on the upswing in Monroe County. In Miami-Dade, the total number of cases jumped by more than 100 for a second straight week and now stands at 548 students and employees. In Broward, 199 cases were added last week, taking the total to 448 since schools reopened. Monroe reported 14 students, a teacher and three other employees contracted the virus, increasing the number of cases from 28 on Nov. 6 to 46 on Nov. 13. Miami Herald.

Broward: The head coach of the boys basketball team at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale has been accused of bank fraud, money laundering, engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds and making false statements to a financial institution. Federal prosecutors said the consulting company of Terrence Williams, 40, who coached the team to back-to-back state championships, received almost $1 million in false claims from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and also received unemployment benefits from the state. An investigation disclosed that the company had no employees. Prosecutors said Williams used the money to open accounts at several banks. WPTV. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WFOR.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Nearly 350 coronavirus cases were reported by the Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts last week, a slight decline from the previous week’s 360 but about 100 more than any other week since schools reopened in late August. Tampa Bay Times. An assistant Hillsborough preschool teacher has been arrested and accused of child abuse. Deputies said Nicole Franklino, 32, pushed one of her students out of a chair and then threw her to the ground. WFLA.

Orange: A miscommunication has been reported at a second county school that again resulted in students who were supposed to be under quarantine reporting for school. District officials said the principal at Wolf Lake Middle School in Apopka tried to send an automated message Nov. 19 to the families of 16 students who had been exposed to the coronavirus. The families never got the voice message, and about half of the students reported for school the next day instead of quarantining until Oct. 27. WOFL.

Duval: Parents whose children are attending school through the Duval HomeRoom online livestream program are worried that the option won’t be available to them for the next semester. Many said if the program goes away, increasing the risk for students or their family members who have pre-existing health conditions, so will they. “Every parent has the right to keep their children safe, even if the people who are supposed to care about that seem to have lost their minds,” said Jessica Dawson, whose daughter attends classes remotely. “I’m trying to look at this year as a throwaway year. If everyone is behind, no one is. And if we’re forced back to brick-and-mortar I’ll yank her — and the funding that goes with her — out of Duval County’s school system with zero qualms.” Florida Times-Union. A county teacher who was removed from the classroom last week has been arrested and accused of driving under the influence after a crash in March that killed a 46-year-old woman. Troopers said Pierre Jean-Louis, 37, a physical education teacher at three elementary schools, was legally impaired and driving west in an eastbound lane. WJXT. Florida Times-Union. A trailer with at least 17 bicycles that were going to students at Duval Charter School at Southside has been stolen. The trailer was left at the school because it had a flat tire. WJXT.

Palm Beach: Rapid-results coronavirus tests are expected to be available for use by the school district just after Thanksgiving. Parents are now being asked to sign permission slips for a nurse to perform the test on students who are experiencing symptoms. “This is not going to take the problem away, but it’s going to let us alert people more rapidly, notify people faster. It’s just one more tool to give us,” said county health director Dr. Alina Alonso. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. Recently elected school board member Alexandria Ayala has purchased a home in Delray Beach, 15 miles outside the district she was elected to represent. The loan documents indicate that Ayala, 27, agreed to use the home as her “principal residence.” Ayala said she helped buy the home with her boyfriend, who will live there while she continues to live with her mother. Ayala will be sworn in at Tuesday’s board meeting. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. About 350 food-insecure students in in Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach will receive weekend meals for the rest of the year through the district’s partnership with the community nonprofit organization Boca Helping Hands. Sun Sentinel.

Pasco: Parents of about 600 students who would change schools if a rezoning plan is approved will have their chance to tell school board members what they think of the plan at Tuesday’s meeting. Rezoned students would attend the new Starkey Ranch K-8 in the Trinity area. Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: All high school graduations in 2021 will be held at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach between June 1-6, district officials have announced. The number of guests each student will be permitted to invite will depend on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restrictions in place then. The center can hold up to 6,000 spectators. WKMG.

Manatee: Eleven cases of the coronavirus were reported by seven schools last week, and at least 115 students and employees have been advised to quarantine. Since schools reopened Aug. 17, 232 cases have been reported and 2,357 people have been quarantined. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: One teacher from each of the county’s 46 schools has been nominated for the district’s rookie of the year award. Teachers who have less than three years of experience are eligible. Three finalists will be chosen in February, and the winner will be named March 11. Daily Commercial. The school board has approved the release of the mineral rights to the old Leesburg High agriculture farm property. It was the last hurdle to clear before closing on the $4.53 million sale of the 27-acre property to a developer. Daily Commercial.

Sarasota: Forty-three students and 17 employees contracted the coronavirus last week, according to district officials. It’s the largest single-week increase this school year. About 30 cases a week had been the average over the past five weeks. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Sister Kierstin Martin, the principal at Pensacola Catholic High School, and 50 of the school’s students have contracted the coronavirus this month, according to the Pensacola-Tallahassee Catholic Diocese. The school switched to online-only learning on Nov. 3, after 10 students tested positive. Pensacola News Journal.

Santa Rosa: Incoming Superintendent Karen Barber talks about communication, teacher pay, the coronavirus and enrollment growth. Barber, who was the district’s director of federal programs for the past 12 years, was elected in August and takes over for the retiring Tim Wyrosdick. She will be sworn in Tuesday. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: Five finalists have been chosen for the district’s support employee of the year. They are: Samantha Bennett from Margaret K. Lewis School; Laygyn Melendez from Parker Elementary; Adrianna Hill from Bay High; Amanda Odom from Jinks Middle; and Anthony Cullen from Bay Base. WMBB.

Nassau: Eleven students tested positive for the coronavirus last week, sending 158 students into quarantine. It’s the highest number since schools opened. “This has been the most challenging week,” said Superintendent Mark Durham. “Transmissions are happening outside of the schools.” WJXT.

Monroe: School board members meet Tuesday to review how much local charter schools received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and how the money was spent, and steps the district takes to prevent financial fraud. Key West Citizen.

More on the coronavirus: A new study shows that high school graduation rates in Iowa rose 7 percent this year despite the pandemic and switch to online learning. Researchers said the suspension of extracurricular activities last spring gave students more time to focus on their schoolwork. WFLA. Teachers and students are adapting to make education in the pandemic era work. Here’s how. USA Today. How might a very effective coronavirus vaccine affect schools? Two experts said the return to normal would be gradual, since the vaccine won’t be available immediately to everyone. Education Week. The recent surge in the number of U.S. coronavirus cases is having an impact on districts’ plans to reopen schools. Chalkbeat.

Opinions on schools: Choice of charters and private schools seems not merely to do no harm, but rather to raise scores and make subsidized choice possible. Society can now turn to address the more profound social problems it has created by its disabling of the parent. John E. Coons, redefinED. Florida’s school districts should not be forced by the state to remove remote learning options for students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. An investment in high-quality early education programs, especially for underserved children, pays dividends for many years. Betsy Vaughn, Fort Myers News-Press. Martin County school Superintendent Laurie Gaylord was never a rock star, more a steady hand on the tiller. And that, some say, was exactly what the district needed when she was elected in 2012. Gil Smart, TCPalm. The Pinellas Education Foundation agrees that the College of Education at USF must be reimagined, but true innovation must be informed by the perspectives of local school districts and economic impact. We implore the leadership at USF to not only reconsider the decision to close the College of Education and end undergraduate education programs, but also to work collaboratively to develop a new strategic pathway forward. Charles M. Harris, Tampa Bay Times. What will Florida’s K-12 schools look like after the pandemic? Will fewer students take upper level high school math and science courses? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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