Standardized testing mandate, virtual field trips, graduation and prom events, CPR bills, and more

Camille Knox

Across the state: States must administer federally required standardized tests this year, a bill is being sponsored to make CPR training mandatory for seniors in Florida high schools, seniors are hoping for graduation and prom events despite the pandemic, the Legislative session starts on March 2, virtual field trips are being held for students, and changes could be in the works regarding the way Osceola schools are policed. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Brettlynn Wolff, a teacher at Campbell Drive K-8 Center in Homestead, tested positive for COVID-19. Wolff is on a long road to recovery, with a GoFundMe started to help with her medical costs. Miami Herald.

Broward: The Broward Teachers Union on Saturday held a car caravan against schools’ chief Robert Runcie’s handling of COVID-19 protocols. Members of the union say they aimed to inform the public about the failed leadership of Runcie during the pandemic. They also say Runcie was inconsistent regarding safety protocols, and entertained reducing social distancing protocols. CBS Miami.

Palm Beach: Music director Rob White-Davis of Gulf Stream School goes above and beyond the call of duty to connect students with their families. WPTV.

Osceola: After Ethan Fournier, a school resource deputy, was seen on video knocking a 16-year-old student unconscious by slamming her into pavement at Liberty High, debates have emerged about roles and training of on-campus law enforcement officers. Changes in the way Osceola schools are policed could be coming. Orlando-Sentinel.

Leon: Two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters recently debuted at a school board meeting, translating for the deaf or hard-of-hearing during the live-streamed meeting. But the two won’t be permanent at such meetings. District spokesman Chris Petley said they are part of the district’s accessibility commitment, and that the district is looking into captioning meetings. Tallahassee Democrat.

St. Johns: Early registration begins March 1. Children entering kindergarten must be 5 on or before Sept. 1, and must reside in St. Johns. Action News Jax.

Standardized tests: President Joe Biden’s administration said Monday that states must administer federally required standardized tests this year. But, schools won’t be held accountable for results, and states can give shorter, remote, or even delayed versions of the exams. Last school year, regular standardized testing was canceled due to the pandemic. Chartbeat.

COVID-19 concerns and cases: Florida teachers and their unions are nervous about in-person education, and skeptical of whether the state and school districts have been transparent about COVID-19 cases. They also want Gov. Ron DeSantis to make teachers a vaccine priority, especially as more students returned to campuses last month. Orlando-Sentinel. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases related to Florida’s public and private K-12 schools is closing in on the 70,000 mark, six months since the state started tracking cases last September. But weekly school cases during the pandemic’s winter months seem to have dropped for a few weeks now. Florida Phoenix. In the Treasure Coast, hundreds of students, teachers and other school employees have tested positive since the school year began in August. TC Palm. In Manatee, six more public school students have tested positive for COVID-19. The newest cases have been reported at: Braden River High, King Middle, Palmetto Elementary, Palmetto High, Samoset Elementary and Southeast High. Bradenton Herald. Meanwhile, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 6, the state counted 81 new cases of COVID-19 in Volusia and four in Flagler, totaling 1,897 cases since Sept. 6. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

CPR bill: Shawn Sima’s daughter collapsed in 2016 while running on a treadmill in a gym near their home in Melbourne. A stranger tried CPR, and others used an AED to shock her heart back into rhythm. Doctors implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator in her chest, and she woke up three days later. The story convinced Sen. Dennis Baxley to sponsor a bill that would make CPR training mandatory for high school seniors in order to graduate. The bill would lay out a requirement to make sure each student gets at least one hour of CPR study. News 4 Jax.

Graduation and prom: Senior Milan Gillum and other classmates spoke to the Pinellas County School Board with a request in mind: The opportunity to celebrate events like graduation and prom in a safe manner. Ideas included outdoor activities with limited attendance, using temperature checks and other safety features. Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, in Martin County, students are planning a countywide prom without the backing of the school district. WPEC. Yahoo News.

Legislative session: Almost a year after the pandemic forced campus closures and canceled spring testing, struggles continue. But local school officials and education groups hope state lawmakers will prioritize school issues during the state Legislature session, which starts on March 2. Education constitutes about one-third of the state’s total spending annually. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald.

Virtual field trips: The pandemic has curbed in-person field trips due to coronavirus restrictions put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local health department. So teachers in the school district’s Environmental Studies Center are hosting a series of virtual field trips for Martin students. WPEC.

Aquaculture classes: State educators can apply for a summer program to train in incorporating aquaculture into their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and agriculture curriculum. The deadline is March 3 for the three-day training and skills building workshop. Lakeland Ledger.

Eagle Scout honor: Julia Shepard of Apopka is among hundreds of young women who are part of the first class of female Eagle Scouts across the country. Shepard earned 21 required merit badges, completed interviews and did a final project. WESH.

Opinions on schools: Since vaccinations have begun to ramp up, child care educators should be part of the priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Renee Jaffe, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  Systemic racism is interwoven into the fabric of public education because it was a linchpin in establishing it over 400 years ago, when only white males were permitted to attend. Keith Jacobs, redefinED. We ought to judge the beauty of charter laws not by their adherence to a model, but their outcomes. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. 

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