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Florida schools roundup: Sales tax holiday, resource officers, Zika and more

florida-roundup-logoSales tax holiday: Florida’s back-to-school sales-tax break weekend begins today and ends Sunday. Buyers will not have to pay the sale tax for some clothes, footwear and accessories costing less than $60, and most school supplies up to $15. WFLA. Florida Today. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Gainesville Sun. Panama City News Herald. Keynoter. Highlands Today. Sunshine State News. WUSF.

Resource officers: The Marion County School District will begin looking for options on providing resource officers in schools in 2017-2018 and beyond. The school board approved a deal this year with the Ocala Police Department to share costs for officers. But next year the district would have to pay the full cost for officers in middle and high schools, which would increase the district’s bill by almost 50 percent to $1.25 million. Ocala Star Banner.

Zika and schools: Miami-Dade school officials worry that the spread of the Zika virus is going to cause disruptions as about 400,000 students return to school Aug. 22. Health officials have advised people to wear long-sleeve shirts and use insect repellant. But long sleeves aren’t popular in Florida in August, and districts regard insect repellant as a medication, and not to be brought to school. Miami Herald.

That extra hour: Only the highest-achieving students at the state’s 312 lowest-performing schools will be exempt from the state-mandated daily extra hour of reading instruction. Students who scored at Level 5 on the Florida Standards Assessments are permitted to opt out. All other students are required to participate. Gradebook. Orlando’s Carver Middle School is finalizing its turnaround plan even while those who work there don’t accept the Florida Board of Education’s assessment that the school is in crisis. Carver has received D’s and F’s in each of the past five years, and almost 80 percent of its students failed the Florida Standards Assessments math and language arts exams. Orlando Sentinel.

School changes: The Florida Department of Education notifies Volusia County school officials that the 900 students at Campbell Middle School must be given the opportunity to transfer to a higher-performing school. The Daytona Beach school has received four straight D grades from the state. Daytona Beach News-Journal. After a $55 million renovation, Largo High School officials will hold an open house to give students and their families a look at the changes. Gradebook. A new school specializing in teaching students with autism and other learning disabilities opens in Century. The Century Academy is a private, non-profit K-12 school, and the third school affiliated with the East Hill Academy. Pensacola News Journal. The SouthShore Charter Academy for grades K-6 opens Aug. 10 in Riverview with 799 students. The plans are to add a seventh grade next year and an eighth grade the year after that, taking enrollment to 1,145. Observer News. Ocala’s Francis Marion Charter School is changing its name to Ocali Charter Middle School. Ocali is what the Timucuan Indians called their village in what is now Ocala. Ocala Star Banner.

Schools overflowing: Every high school in Manatee County is at or above student capacity. Bay News 9.

School personnel: The Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie county school districts are struggling to fill teaching vacancies at low-income schools. TCPalm.

Principal on leave: Tampa Preparatory’s principal has been placed on paid while the school investigates allegations of his possible inappropriate behavior at another school more than 25 years ago. Kevin Plummer, who has run Tampa Prep since 2007, has denied the allegations. Tampa Bay Times.

Counselor arrested: A Chaires Elementary School guidance counselor is arrested and charged with charge of lewd and lascivious behavior after she was seen kissing and hugging a boy under 16 years old at her Tallahassee apartment complex. Kathgret Rebecca Rentz has been suspended from her job. Tallahassee Democrat.

Ex-principal’s plea: The former principal at Spessard Holland Elementary School in Satellite Beach agrees to a plea deal on federal child pornography charges. Ricky Delano Sheppard, 59, who was arrested in June, faces 5-20 years in prison. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: The sales tax holiday provides savings that Floridians actually consider and discuss. Appropriately for the kickoff of the school year, it’s a teachable moment about how the sales tax affects us in our everyday purchases. Dominic M. Calabro, Pensacola  News Journal. Noted education expert Sandra Stotsky advises Collier voters to elect school board members willing to layer on superior standards as a way to neutralize the inferiority of Common Core, and return our classrooms back to our teachers, where they rightfully belong. David Bolduc, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Tallahassee’s Chiles High School ties for third in the national math competition, the 46th Mu Alpha Theta National Convention held in St. Louis. Tallahassee Democrat. Pinellas County educators get specialized training to help them spot mental health problems in students. Tampa Bay Times. A Fire Leadership Academy is opening at Flagler Palm Coast High School. It will offer classes that put students on the way to a career as a firefighter, emergency medical technician and other medical fields. Daytona Beach News-Journal. University of South Florida mathematics professors are wowed by the Tampa Bay area high school students who took part in the school’s summer STEM program. Tampa Bay Times. Jennifer Hall, a seventh-grade science teacher at Braden River Middle School, says she’ll bring experiences from her summer Space Camp in Alabama into her labs at school. Bradenton Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff