Coronavirus effects on young: A new study published in the journal Nature Immunology suggests that the risks of in-person learning for elementary and middle school students are less than many school officials and doctors had feared. The study examined 47 children and 32 adults who had been infected with COVID-19, and discovered a reduced antibody count among the children, which would indicate the virus has less of an effect than it does in adults. “It does suggest that … as long as extensive precautions are taken, in-person learning may be possible,” said Dr. Donna Farber, an immunologist at Columbia University and a co-author of the study. The report comes as a new wave of coronavirus cases is sweeping the nation and causing some school districts to stay closed or reconsider their reopening plans. The 74.
Around the state: A Clay County teacher has died of complications from COVID-19, many Florida school districts are reporting higher numbers of positive tests, south Florida superintendents are asking the state to set benchmarks that could trigger school closings, Manatee County names its principal and assistant principal of the year, more than 12,000 Volusia County students have chosen to return to classrooms since schools reopened instead of continuing to learn remotely, and new school board members who could change district priorities and policies are being sworn in today. 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: School superintendents in south Florida are asking the state for guidance that would establish coronavirus benchmarks to help them decide how to stay safe while the number of cases is on the rise locally and nationwide. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he won’t allow schools to shut down again, but Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie want to keep the option open. “I think it is fair to say that the best decisions regarding the safety, well-being and health of our local community, the decisions need to be made at the local level, well-informed by medical experts, and that is our intent,” said Carvalho. “We have not received further guidance, specific thresholds, and the actions that would take place if those thresholds are met or exceeded.” His district has reconvened a health task force for advice. The current positive coronavirus case percent is 8 percent; the benchmark used to reopen schools was 5 percent. WTVJ. WPLG. WFOR.
Broward: New school board members Sarah Leonardi and Debra Hixon will be sworn in today, and are expected to focus on safety issues, raises for teachers and student performance. Both were backed in the election by the teachers union, and both are replacing longtime board members. School board chair Lori Alhadeff said, “Mrs. Leonardi and Mrs. Hixon bring a fresh perspective to the school board as seasoned and passionate Broward school teachers. Mrs. Hixon will continue to keep Chris’ memory alive by focusing on education, school safety, transparency and both will bring positive changes to the school board.” Alhadeff’s daughter Alyssa and Hixon’s husband Chris were among 17 people killed in the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Sun Sentinel.
Pinellas: State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, who was recently named to lead the House’s education policy through the new Education and Employment Committee, said workforce education and job training are expected to get attention in the legislative session that begins in March. He also said he will continue to support the expansion of school choice. “It’s not a secret that I’m pro-voucher and I’m pro-giving students more options,” he said. Tampa Bay Times.
Palm Beach: A rain delay for a football game could have contributed to a quarantine order for 62 members and coaches in the Palm Beach Central High School football program, according to an investigation by health officials. Dozens of players and coaches were stuck in a bus for two hours because of the delay, which may have played a part in the quarantine and the eventual positive tests for 16 players and four coaches. It was the first coronavirus outbreak in the district since schools reopened. Palm Beach Post.
Central Florida: Several districts are reporting problems with the online learning platform called Classlink. Schools in Orange and Brevard counties are reporting students having trouble logging into the system. Company engineers are working on the problem. WKMG.
Duval: Fifteen semifinalists have been chosen for the district’s teacher of the year award. More than 175 had been nominated. The field will be narrowed to five finalists on Dec. 1, and the winner will be announced Jan. 27. WJXT.
Lee, Collier: Students who show symptoms of the coronavirus while on campus could soon get a rapid-results test at school. The district is asking county commissioners for $250,000 in federal aid the county has received so that it can offer students the option of having a rapid-results test administered by a team from Golisano Children’s Hospital as soon as this week. Students who are tested will be required to quarantine for 10 days even if the test results are negative. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. Lee County has reported 227 coronavirus cases since schools reopened, and classrooms in four schools have been closed and quarantined for 14 days. Collier school officials have reported 223 cases. Six cases have been reported at charter or private schools. Florida Gulf Coast University has had 405 cases, Florida SouthWestern State College 31, and Ave Maria University 61. Fort Myers News-Press.
Volusia: More than 12,000 district students have abandoned remote learning and returned to classrooms since the school year began, according to school officials. That pushes the total of in-person learners to about 75 percent of all district students. They have been encouraged by the district to return because of potential learning losses and the possibility that the district’s virtual program won’t be supported by the state in the second semester. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Students, teachers and administrators at DeLand High School talk about their experiences during the pandemic. English teacher David Finkle, who is simultaneously teaching both in-person and remote students, described it by saying, “Everything’s set in Jell-O.” Change has been the only constant. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Manatee: The district’s principal and assistant principal of the year have been chosen. Kaththea Johnson, who heads the Palm View K-8 in Palmetto, was named the top principal, and Sheila Waid, who works at Williams Elementary School in Parrish, is the district’s assistant principal of the year. Both are now eligible for the statewide awards. Bradenton Herald. WWSB. Seventeen new cases of the coronavirus have been reported on 13 campuses, including the first cases for two schools. At least 152 people were advised to quarantine. Bradenton Herald. Six or seven 8th-grade students at the Imagine School at Lakewood Ranch clicked on a link during a teleconferenced social studies class last Thursday that took them to a pornography site. “A parent called the school principal, Selenia Quinones, who immediately notified the teacher and the class was ended,” said district spokeswoman Marisa Preuss. “It is unclear what exactly students saw, but it appears that the link was only active for a brief period and was only seen by a few students.” Members of the charter school’s information technology team are investigating. Bradenton Herald.
Lake, Sumter: Another case of the coronavirus was reported last week at the Villages Charter School. Thirty-three students at the school have now tested positive, and those cases represent more than half of the 62 reported this academic year in Sumter County schools. An employee of the Villages Elementary of Lady Lake also tested positive, sending 23 students and an employee at the Lake County school into quarantine. Villages-News. Eight episodes are planned for Season 2 of the Habitat Academy, a Red Apples Media telecast showing 14 Leesburg High School students building a home for Habitat for Humanity. Daily Commercial.
Sarasota: Incoming school board member Tom Edwards thinks the newly reconstituted board and the recently hired superintendent Brennan Asplen could lead to more harmonious working relationships within the district. Edwards and Karen Rose are being sworn in today. Edwards also wants to improve the remote learning program. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Marion: Positive coronavirus cases were up last week, but no consistent trend has been reported in the school district, according to officials. Last week, 16 students and nine employees tested positive. The previous three weeks had totals of 16, 23 and 30. Ocala Star-Banner.
Clay: Tim Clyatt, a computer teacher at Bannerman Learning Center, died last Friday of complications from COVID-19. Clyatt, 59, who had been a teacher in the district for about 20 years, had been hospitalized for a week. It’s the second death of a district employee related to the coronavirus. Bus driver Gail Brusseau died in October. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WTLV.
Leon: School officials denied a report from a former state data analyst that the district is not reporting coronavirus cases in schools. Rebekah Jones, who was fired from her job working on the state’s coronavirus dashboard in May, claimed on Twitter that the district was hiding a confirmed case at her son’s school, then harassed an assistant principal at the school. The district responded that case was reported at around noon Friday, but the dashboard had been updated at 11 a.m. because of a staffing issue and the case was counted the next day. And it denied harassing the assistant principal. WTXL.
Bradford: Will Hartley, a former teacher who surprisingly won the superintendent’s election over incumbent Stacey Creighton, vowed he would support teachers and try to make the school district more of a community hub. “Until everybody – the schools, the community, the parents, the children – until they are all working together, you’re not going to have your best results,” Hartley said. WUFT.
Settlement for electric buses: School districts in the state’s most heavily congested areas are eligible to share $57 million from a settlement between Volkswagen and the federal government. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said districts in the metro areas of Miami-Broward-Palm Beach, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville and Pensacola can apply for the money to help replace diesel engine school buses with electric ones. The money is part of a $166 million settlement Florida received after VW was found to have cheated on vehicle emissions tests and deceived customers about the impacts of its “clean diesel” engines on air quality. Florida Phoenix.
Opinions on schools: Florida’s schools should not be penalized by the state if parents want their children to learn remotely. Sun Sentinel. The dangers of COVID-19 in schools are real and potentially deadly but can be successfully mitigated. The costs of closing schools, however, have only begun to be measured, and we have no plan to reverse them. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. The coronavirus pandemic has opened many parents’ eyes to the brutal shortcomings that pervade K-12 education, and voters returned to office more policymakers who are willing and able to take a stand on parents’ behalf through an expansion of school choice programs. Ben DeGrow, The Hill.