Roof concerns close four Broward schools, Lee board member wants district investigated, and more

In the Legislature: The bill that would cancel the consequences of spring state test scores, allow some parents to decide if their children are retained and shield colleges and universities from lawsuits for tuition and fees refunds after the pandemic sent classes online was approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Capitol News Service. School districts would be required to hold public hearings to detail what would be included in their sex education courses under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Its counterpart in the House would require parental permission before offering any instruction in sex education to students. Associated Press. Black lawmakers are lobbying to include $305,000 in the state for scholarships for up to 50 descendants of victims of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots. Florida Phoenix. The LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida is warning the Legislature that passing a bill banning transgender students from competing in school sports will provoke an economic backlash that will hurt the state. S.B. 2012 and H.B. 1475 are both moving toward full chamber votes. Florida Politics. S.B. 86, which could change the way Bright Futures Scholarships are funded, goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee today, its last stop before a full Senate vote. WWSB.

State revenues up: For a seventh straight month, the state’s general revenue collections have surpassed the projections issued in August. The revenue in February was $298.5 million above the projection, which had been reduced because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. In December the revenues exceeded projections by $336.7 million, and in January it was by $246.7 million. The report was timely; the House Appropriations Committee will consider its $97 billion budget today. The Senate has proposed spending $95 billion. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Four schools in Broward County have been closed indefinitely over fears that their roofs will collapse, a Lee County School Board member is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate the district for “waste, fraud and abuse,” the Martin County School District and its teachers finally reach a tentative contract agreement after a long impasse, health officials in Volusia County are advising the school board not to relax its rule requiring face masks to be worn in school, Pasco County will not offer its live remote learning option next fall, the Palm Beach County School District chooses its teacher and support employee of the year, and 18 Florida university graduate programs are considered top 10 in their categories by the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Molly Winters Diallo, a social studies teacher at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School who was the district’s teacher of the year in 2018, has won a seat on the Bay Harbor Islands Town Council. Her only opponent withdrew March 24, canceling the election that was scheduled April 6. Miami Herald.

Broward: Four schools have closed until further notice over fears that their roofs will collapse. More than 1,400 students at Lauderdale Lakes Middle, Lauderhill 6-12, Apollo Middle in Hollywood and Plantation Middle will be learning remotely until the roofs are inspected. All four schools share the same structural design as James S. Rickards Middle in Fort Lauderdale, where the roof over the media center collapsed March 5. Sun Sentinel. The 48 high schools, technical colleges and special centers across the district will hold in-person graduation ceremonies June 4-10, district officials have announced. Each student will get two tickets for guests, and coronavirus safety guidelines will be followed. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. Daniel Egnor, a social studies teacher at Everglades High School in Miramar for the past eight years, has died, principal Haleh Darbarat announced Monday. The cause of death has not been determined. WPLG.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Schools in the Tampa Bay area are working with the University of South Florida on a Cyber Citizenship project to teach students digital skills so they can recognize misinformation that gets spread through the Internet. The project is part of a digital literacy curriculum being developed by Cyber Florida, which is based at USF and helps students from the early grades through college. “We think if we can do this for Florida, we can replicate it across the nation,” said Cyber Florida director Mike McConnell. NPR.

Palm Beach: Toshimi Abe-Janiga, who has taught English and Holocaust studies at Riviera Beach Preparatory for 14 years, has been named the Palm Beach County School District’s teacher of the year. The school-related employee of the year is Hernan Avila, who started at Wellington High as a behavior specialist and later moved on to a job in technology. Palm Beach Post. WPEC. School employees who are over 40 or considered to be medically vulnerable can receive the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccination Thursday or Friday at one of four school locations. WPEC.

Duval: The school district is planning to hire a consultant to evaluate the feasibility of selling the district headquarters located on the St. Johns River. The district has been in the building 40 years, but officials want to gauge whether it’s a good time to sell and whether any other buildings the district owns could be made into a new headquarters. The riverfront property was most recently valued at $12.3 million. The evaluation process will last into 2022. WJXT.

Pinellas: School officials are encouraging students to make up for learning losses by enrolling in summer school, and they expect up to 25 percent of the district’s students to attend. The program for students in all grades runs from June 21 to July 15 for about five hours a day. WTVT. A 12-year-old 6th-grader at Seminole Middle School said she’s been harassed and bullied since she started wearing a pro-Donald Trump cap and face mask to school earlier this month. District officials said they are looking into the allegations. Bay News 9.

Lee, Collier: School board member Gwynetta S. Gittens is asking Gov. DeSantis to have the school district investigated for “waste, fraud and abuse.” She’s accusing the district of Sunshine Law violations, misuse of public positions, employment discrimination, financial mismanagement, fraud and abuses of power, according to a news release. “Board members are putting their personal agendas before children and the proper management of taxpayer money, time, and resources,” she said. “There is definitely a need for an investigation.” District officials and other school board members had no comment.WINK. WBBH. WFTX. Involuntary commitments of children in Lee and Collier counties grew by more than a third during the pandemic, and mental health providers said they can’t keep up with the demand. Fort Myers News-Press.

Pasco: The school district announced it will not offer its live remote learning option, MySchool Online, when schools resume in the fall. About 30 percent use the platform now. The district will continue to offer virtual instruction, but it is independent learning instead of the daily classroom schedule and direct instruction and interaction offered by MySchool. Bay News 9. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTVT. WUSF.

Brevard: Divine Mercy Catholic Academy in Merritt Island announced this week that it’s closing its doors. Florida Today.

Volusia: Health officials are recommending that the school board not change its policy requiring face masks to be worn in schools. “I think that at this point in time we have to continue with our measures, see what happens with the vaccinations and do contingency planning in the meantime,” said health administrator Patricia Boswell. Some members had been urging the board to reconsider the policy. “Part of me — well, most of me — is saying we made it this far, just hang on,” said board member Carl Persis, who pushed for the review. “But I can deeply understand many of the parents who say, ‘Enough is enough. My child just can’t take it anymore.’ ” Ultimately, the board declined to ask the superintendent to review the policy or make a recommendation to change it. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WOFL.

Manatee: The parents of many students learning remotely said they are reluctant to have their children go to their schools to take Florida Standards Assessments tests that start next week. District officials are scheduling more assessments, in smaller groups, in an effort to convince those parents that their children will be safe during testing. “But if they don’t want to come in, we’re not going to force them.” said Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: Eric Robinson, a former school board member who was defeated in 2020, has filed a lawsuit against a political consultant who alleged that Robinson had received illegal campaign contributions. In his suit, Robinson said the complaints, which were all later dismissed, were made up by George Thurlow to help his opponent, Tom Edwards, who won the election by 4 percentage points. “It had a huge impact. It probably cost me the election,” Robinson said. “But that’s beside the point. It’s the reputation damage and malice of it all.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: Officials in the Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts are proceeding with in-person graduation plans in early June, with most being held at the Pensacola Bay Center. Students will receive a limited number of tickets for guests, and safety protocols will be observed. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Five school district employees have been named to the 10-member board of the recently created Children’s Services Council. None of the 10 will be paid for their CSC roles, and a spokesperson for the government watchdog organization Integrity Florida said it’s not unusual to have local educators on children’s services councils. There are 10 such councils in the state. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: A routine staff meeting at Liza Jackson Preparatory School in Fort Walton Beach on Monday was enlivened when Robert Aid walked into the room to propose to his girlfriend of a year, 2nd-grade teacher Regan Tungate. She said yes, and they set the wedding for March 19, 2022. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Bay: Superintendent Bill Husfelt said this week that he is reorganizing his administrative staff. The deputy superintendent’s position will be split into three jobs: deputy superintendents for teaching and learning, operations, and professional and community services. The district is interviewing candidates for the jobs, which begin July 1. WMBB.

Martin: Just days after receiving a letter from the Florida Department of Education threatening to sue both the school district and teachers union for its protracted contract impasse, the two sides came to a tentative agreement late Monday night. Pay for new teachers would increase by more than $6,000, to $45,200, while veteran teachers would receive increases of $800 or $1,000, depending on their experience. The deadline for submitting a pay plan to the state was Oct. 1. The district and union had been haggling for 10 months. TCPalm. WPTV.

Citrus: District finance director Tammy Wilson recently presented school board members with an accounting of how money from the first round of federal coronavirus aid was spent. About $2.28 million went toward software and curriculum, paying teachers for extra duty, Zoom subscriptions and hiring administrators for the district’s online school. About $200,000 was spent on teacher training, $1 million on masks, sanitizers and shields for employees and students, $275,000 for extra maintenance help and equipment to sanitize schools, $30,000 to the Academy of Environmental Science charter school, $145,000 to four private schools, and about $200,000 for indirect costs to handle the added work caused by remote learning. The last million has been committed to projects that are in the works. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: Eighteen Florida university graduate programs rank among the nation’s top 10 in their categories in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. Florida State University’s school library media was ranked tops in its category, the highest for any state school. Tampa Bay Times. Lakeland Ledger.

Personnel moves: Winston Scott, a senior vice president at the Florida Institute of Technology and a former  astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions in 1996 and 1997, has been appointed by Gov. DeSantis to the Eastern Florida State College Board of Trustees. Space Coast Daily. Eastern Florida State College.

Around the nation: As many as 67 U.S. school attacks were averted between 2006 and 2018 by vigilant members of communities who noticed something wrong and reported their suspicions to authorities, according to a report from the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center. CNN.

Opinions on schools: Well-intentioned state legislators in Florida have unanimously passed a civics bill through the upper chamber that is likely to have the very opposite effect as the one intended. Stanley Kurtz, National Review. Students have been resilient and creative through the pandemic. Schools must be too. Ginger Spickler, Bryan Davis and Jesse Patrick, The 74.

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