Three more COVID deaths, 59,000 vulnerable Broward students struggling, short summer nixed and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Around the state: A professor from Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne and an 8-year student and an employee in the Duval County School District have died of complications from the coronavirus, about 59,000 Broward students who were already vulnerable failed to make adequate progress during the pandemic, the Palm Beach School Board will reconsider its proposed school calendar after parents complained about the short summer break it called for in 2021, the Seminole County School Board narrows its choice for a new superintendent to two candidates, St. Johns teachers and the district agree on paid leave for coronavirus-related reasons, teachers over 65 in several districts are scheduled to start getting vaccinations this week, the Senate Education Committee will consider a bill next week that would require colleges and universities to assess “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” annually, and the number of coronavirus cases in K-12 schools declined last week. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: All school district employees over the age of 65, fulltime and part-time, will have the opportunity to get coronavirus vaccinations this weekend through a district partnership with Jackson Memorial Hospital. WSVN. WTVJ.

Broward: Almost 59,000 of the district’s 204,000 students have failed to make adequate academic progress during the coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent Robert Runcie told the school board Wednesday. He said most of those struggling students were already vulnerable children. “This is also a significant equity issue, as 84 percent of students who are struggling and not making adequate progress are clack and Hispanic,” Runcie said. “Twenty-four percent are students with disabilities. Thirty-four percent are English language learners. And 69 percent are low-income on our free and reduced lunch program. We can and must do better for these children.” A key component to improvement, he said, was having those students back in classrooms, a position that has put him at odds with teachers who are worried for their safety. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough, Pinellas: Teachers and other Hillsborough school employees over the age of 65 will be able to make appointments for Friday or Saturday to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The shots are being made available through a district partnership with Tampa General Hospital and the health department. Tampa Bay Times. Both Hillsborough and Pinellas will name teachers of the year tonight in virtual ceremonies. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: A charter school principal has been arrested and accused of failing to report suspected child abuse by an employee as required by law. Abdulaziz Yalcin, 35, the middle and high school principal at the Orlando Science Charter School, was told that several boys were accusing a school employee of soliciting nude photos and having sexually explicit conversations with them on social media. Yalcin said nothing to law enforcement officers for a month, and also ordered the school dean and several teachers to stay quiet. Then Yalcin confronted the accused employee and forced him to resign. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV.

Palm Beach: School board members postponed a vote on the 2021-2022 school calendar after parents criticized the shortened summer. Because of a late start to the school year due to the pandemic, school ends June 18, and the proposed schedule for the next academic year set Aug. 10 as the first day. That would cut the summer vacation from the usual 10 weeks to seven, and drew pointed opposition from parents. Board members agreed to reconsider a one-week later start at its Feb. 3 meeting. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel.

Duval: Deaurra Nealy, an 8-year-old 2nd-grader at Twin Lakes Academy Elementary School in Jacksonville, has died after showing symptoms of an inflammatory condition tied to COVID-19, according to family members. She was admitted to a hospital on Jan. 13 with a rash and a persistent fever, and died early Sunday. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Jeanne Martin, a teacher’s assistant at Neptune Beach Elementary School, died Monday of complications from the coronavirus, school board member Elizabeth Andersen announced Wednesday. Mrs. Martin was 56. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. The all-women’s Andrew Jackson High School Air Force Junior ROTC drill team marched in the inauguration’s virtual parade on Wednesday. Florida Times-Union.

Brevard: School board members declined to create a policy giving them the authority to intervene if schools decided to change their mascots. Instead, the board directed Superintendent Mark Mullins to develop a procedure that schools must follow before making such a change. The decision came two days before Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School is scheduled to vote on whether to retire its “Indian” mascot and nickname. Florida Today. WKMG.

Seminole: Two finalists for the school superintendent’s job have been named, and will be interviewed by the school board Feb. 8 with a decision expected the following day. School board attorney Serita Beaman and Lake County assistant superintendent Chad Farnsworth are the candidates to replace Walt Griffin, who is retiring this spring after nine years of running the district. Orlando Sentinel.

Collier: The school district got the approval of the Naples City Council to expand services for students with disabilities in a home next to Naples High School. Students will be taught life skills such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance in the home from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. Naples Daily News.

St. Johns: Teachers will be given up to eight days of paid leave if they have to miss school for a coronavirus-related reason, according to an agreement reached this week between the district and the teachers union. The rule is retroactive to Jan. 4. “We are pleased we were able to reach an agreement,” said union president Michelle Dillon. “There are still a lot of teachers who have had to take time off because of coronavirus.” WJXT.

Sarasota: Construction on the Pine View School in Osprey is on schedule for it to open for students next January, officials said Wednesday. The new school will be three stories with 80,000 square feet of learning space for the K-12 students. Charlotte Sun.

Escambia: District officials are starting to work on a strategic plan to improve students’ proficiency rates and lower the achievement gap between black and white students. The process will start this month with meetings between administrators and the staff, followed by a districtwide online survey and a meeting with members of the community in April. Pensacola News Journal. Marcus May, the former CEO of the charter school company Newpoint Education Partners who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for racketeering and fraud in 2018 in Escambia County, is challenging his conviction to an appeals court next week. News Service of Florida.

Clay: Orange Park High School has become the district’s third community partnership school, combining education, counseling, mentoring, health services and more for students and neighborhood residents on the school’s campus. Partners in the 25-year program are the school district, the Children’s Home Society, Orange Park Medical Center, St. Johns River State College and Palms Medical Group. Clay Today. The school board will hold a town hall meeting Jan. 22 to review the proposed rezoning to alleviate overcrowding at Oakleaf High School. The option favored by board members would send 362 Oakleaf students to Ridgeview High School. Clay Today.

Alachua: A new $21 million building for middle and high school students opened Wednesday at P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville. The three-story building has no hallways, glass walls between classrooms and common areas where teachers can collaborate. “It was like moving into a new home with the open concept from a home that had like a closed concept,” said senior Phillip Miller. “You can see (other classes). … It’s more of a chilled, relaxed atmosphere. I don’t feel like I’m being isolated.” Gainesville Sun. The district has updated its website’s coronavirus dashboard to provide more detailed information. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: Some parents are questioning the coronavirus quarantine protocol imposed by health officials on the school district, saying it makes no sense for students without symptoms and complained about a lack of communication. Students who have been exposed to someone with the virus can’t return to school for eight days if they have a negative COVID-19 test, or 10 days without a test. Students who have been quarantined also may not participate in extracurricular activities for 14 days. WEAR.

Bay: County middle and high schools are beginning to include mental health instruction for students in grades 6-12. In 2019, the Legislature required all districts to provide at least five hours of class time to discuss how to recognize signs of mental distress. WJHG. Michelle Birdwell, the band teacher at Mowat Middle School in Lynn Haven, has been awarded the Oliver Hobbs Award from the Florida Bandmasters Association. The award is given to band directors who have “consistently done an exceptional job year after year in the position of band director.” WMBB.

Gadsden: A water main break in Quincy sent students home early Wednesday from Shanks Middle School. District officials said the school will be closed today, and parents will be notified with an update by 3 p.m. about reopening. WTXL.

Colleges and universities: Alan Rosiene, professor of English and languages and associate head of Florida Tech’s School of Arts and Communications, died Saturday of complications from COVID-19. He taught at the Melbourne school for 28 years. Florida Today.

Coronavirus cases: The number of coronavirus cases in Florida’s K-12 schools declined last week, from 4,789 from Jan. 3-9 to 4,338 from Jan. 10-16, according to the Florida Department of Health. Students made up 3,511 of last week’s cases, with 455 being teachers or employees and 372 classified as other. Between Sept. 6 and Jan. 16, schools have reported 49.644 coronavirus cases. Florida Phoenix.

In the Legislature: Next week, the Senate Education Committee will consider a bill requiring colleges and universities to assess their “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” annually. The schools would survey “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the college community feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.” S.B. 264 is sponsored by state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.  News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: President Joe Biden has extended the suspension of repayments on student loans through Sept. 30. WFTX. Biden also revoked an order issued by former president Donald Trump creating a commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools. Education Week. Declining K-12 enrollment nationwide is likely to lead to significant budget cuts that could be “financially destabilizing,” according to education experts. K-12 Dive.

Education podcasts: Step Up For Students chief operating officer Gina Lynch and chief financial officer Joe Pfountz talk with company president Doug Tuthill about the complexities of managing education savings accounts and the role of artificial intelligence in the future of ESAs. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: Colleges and universities that embrace academic rigor and social responsibility in their curriculum will be uniquely situated to help not only their students succeed, but the schools as well. Brendan Ryan, Orlando Sentinel.

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