State extends order allowing online learning, math learning lags, guardian training funding and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Order extends remote learning: Students will be able to continue remote learning in the second semester if they choose, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday after the Florida Department of Education issued a new emergency order. Schools will have to continue offering in-person instruction. “The message is schools are open,” DeSantis said. “We are not going to abandon your child. We are not going to abandon you. We are still offering parents to make a choice.” Schools will be required to file intervention plans by Dec. 15 that detail how they will deal with students learning online who are failing courses, and to notify parents if those children are not “making adequate progress.” In most cases, the students will have to return to in-person instruction unless their parents opt out of that choice. The reason, DeSantis said, is that “the data and the evidence are overwhelmingly clear, virtual learning is just not the same as being in person.” The state will also continue to fully fund districts for all students learning in-person or virtually. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Today. Florida Politics. WKMG. WFSU. Florida Phoenix. WPLG. WJXT. redefinED.

Math learning lagging: Elementary and middle school students are falling behind in math because of the coronavirus pandemic, but not in reading, according to a new study by the NWEA, a nonprofit organization that creates academic assessments for students pre-K-12. The study also concludes that poor and minority students were not attending school for assessments at a disproportionate rate, which complicated the effort to measure how the pandemic has affected them. The study is one of the first attempts to measure the impact the pandemic has had on learning by students in grades 3 through 8. Associated Press.

Tax revenue improves: The state’s tax revenues for October were $35.4 million higher than projected last January, before the pandemic. It’s the first time since spring that general tax revenues met or exceeded those forecast. They were also $313.5 million higher than the revised forecast issued in August. “Given the nature of the fiscal shock, comparisons to the same month in the prior year produce the most meaningful metrics,” said the report from the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research. “In this respect, overall collections in October 2020 essentially match the collections in October 2019.” General tax revenues make up a large portion of the state’s education budget. News Service of Florida.

Security training funds: Federal coronavirus pandemic aid will be used to fund training for the state’s school guardian program through the end of this academic year, but a new source of funding will have to be found to keep the program going for the 2021-2022 school year. Gov. DeSantis vetoed the $41.5 million budget last summer, and districts are now counting on legislators to include money for the program in the next legislative session that begins in March. Otherwise, districts will have to find a new way to pay for the training provided by sheriff’s and police departments. Forty-three districts rely on about 1,235 guardians to protect schools so they can meet the state mandate of having an armed guard at every school. Politico Florida.

School reopening appeal denied: The 1st District of Appeal denied motions on Monday to reconsider its previous ruling in favor of the state’s constitutional ability to reopen schools. No explanation was given. The Florida Education Association and other organizations had previously persuaded a Leon County circuit judge to issue a temporary injunction against the state’s order to reopen schools, but that ruling was overturned Oct. 9 by a three-judge panel of the appeals court. The plaintiffs then asked for a rehearing by the panel or the full 15 members of the court. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: A bill has been refiled that would allow those with concealed-carry permits to have weapons on the campuses of the state’s universities and colleges, about 2,000 students are still “missing” from Leon County schools, five finalists have been chosen for the Duval school district’s teacher of the year award, and 2021-2022 school calendars are approved in St. Lucie and Martin counties. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: After Gov. DeSantis announced the extension of the order allowing remote learning, Palm Beach school Superintendent Donald Fennoy announced that the district will make no changes in the learning choices for students in the second semester. WPEC.

Duval: Five finalists have been chosen for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Kenneth Ford, a math and science teacher at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School; Kimberly Parker, who teaches 1st grade virtually at Lake Lucina Elementary; Jim Schmitt, a history teacher at Mandarin High; Jameea Jackson-Gaines, a 1st-grade teacher at the Richard Lewis Brown Gifted & Academically Talented Academy; and Nadine Ebri, an algebra teacher at Southside Middle. The winner will be announced next month. Florida Times-Union.

Manatee: Five new coronavirus cases were reported Monday at five schools, sending 44 people into two-week quarantines. Since schools began, 287 cases and at least 3,067 exposures have been counted. Bradenton Herald.

St. Lucie, Martin: School boards in St. Lucie and Martin counties recently approved their district’s 2021-2022 school calendars. In St. Lucie, schools open Aug. 10 and the academic year ends June 2. The first day of school in Martin County is Aug. 11, and the last day is May 27. Both districts will have Thanksgiving week off, and start their winter holiday Dec. 17. TCPalm. Christmas ornaments designed by students from Port Salerno Elementary School will adorn one of the 56 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree at President’s Park in Washington. Florida Department of Education. National Parks Foundation.

Sarasota: The school district is running low on substitute teachers, and Superintendent Brennan Asplen said, “If you want to work five days a week, we definitely have a spot for you.” The district typically needs between 150 and 200 subs every day. It has a pool of 723 subs, which is lower than in previous years. Charlotte Sun.

Marion: The district’s annual Golden Apple Teacher of the Year gala on Jan. 22 will be scaled down this year because of the coronavirus. “Only the Golden Apples, their guests and a few select others will attend,” said Judi Zanetti, the executive director of the sponsor, the Public Education Foundation of Marion County. Ocala Star-Banner.

Leon: About 2,000 students are still “missing” from schools, according to Superintendent Rocky Hanna. He told a group of community leaders Monday that about 300-400 of those students were expected to be in kindergarten but were kept at home by their parents. District employees are “going out and knocking on doors and walking streets” to find the rest, he said. WTXL.

Jackson: A judge has dismissed battery charges against Marianna High School assistant principal Sybil Rivers. She was accused of grabbing a student by her ponytail in 2019 and was suspended by the district, but the judge ruled that Rivers was covered under an educator’s ability to dispense corporal punishment. A hearing will be held next month to decide if Rivers will be reinstated. WMBB.

Colleges and universities:bill to allow people with concealed-carry permits to have guns on Florida college and university campuses has been refiled for the next legislative session. It’s the third time the bill has been proposed, but it has never received a hearing. It was proposed by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. College of Central Florida officials announced Monday that the Dec. 11 graduation will be held virtually because of the pandemic. Ocala Star-Banner. A federal judge has ruled that a class action suit can continue over Lynn University’s decision not to issue partial tuition and fee refunds when classes were moved online because of the pandemic. Lynn, a private school in Boca Raton, had argued that the suit should be dismissed because students had continued to attend the classes virtually and accepted the credits. Law360.

Around the nation: Enrollment in virtual K-12 charter schools is booming. Florida Virtual School’s fulltime enrollment is up 64 percent, while private competitor K12 Inc. is up 57 percent and Connections Academy up 41 percent. NPR.

Opinions on schools: The legacy educational system is well-designed to maximize adult employment, including lots of people who make it next to impossible for dedicated people to do their jobs. The system is, alas, poorly designed to deliver education to children. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. While universal education savings accounts still should be the north star of the school choice movement, state legislators looking to gain the moral high ground and move the ball up field should consider following Florida’s lead by providing students who are bullied and abused a path to a more supportive school. Max Eden, The Hill. On the surface, fall 2021 is likely to look normal at Florida’s public universities. However, changes under consideration could make it more difficult for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to earn degrees in the most economically robust disciplines such as engineering, computer science and physics. Policy-makers should take that into account in making decisions for the future of the State University System. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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