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Florida schools roundup: English proficiency, another Day 1 and more

florida-roundup-logoEnglish proficiency: Of the nearly 260,000 children who took the statewide English-language learner proficiency exam, which measures listening, reading, writing and speaking skills, 43,425 are proficient, according to a Florida Department of Education report. Gradebook.

Day 1: School buses in Palm Beach County arrived on time and most classes started on time on what the district is calling a very smooth first day. But a near-tragedy was reported. A middle-school student was hit by a car near the Egret Lake Elementary School bus loop. He was taken to a hospital and is not seriously injured. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Another student falls into the path of a bus at Braden River Middle School in Manatee County, but narrowly avoids injury. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Other districts also reported few problems on opening day. Florida Times-UnionPensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Naples Daily News. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel. Lakeland Ledger. TCPalm. Tallahassee Democrat. Northwest Florida Daily News. Every teacher and administrator in Titusville and Mims receives a back-to-school rose and a thank-you note from florists Dawn and John Acklin. Florida Today. The St. Johns County School District school enrollment is up 5.3 percent over last year. St. Augustine Record.

Surprise closing: Zellwood’s Little Red School House shut down without notice Monday, leaving students in the private K-12 school scrambling to find an alternative on what should have been its first day. The school apparently lost its lease in a dispute with its landlord, Rolling Hills Community Church. WFTV.

Chronic absenteeism: The Marion County School District’s “Attendance Matters” program has helped cut down slightly on chronic absenteeism and tardiness. The district’s attendance rate was up from 93.25 percent in 2014-2015 to 93.88 percent in 2015-2016. The state average is 94.3 percent. Ocala Star Banner.

Travel bills: Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes has spent more on travel in the past year than the rest of the board members combined. Valdes spent $14,116 traveling to conferences and events between May 2015 and May 2016, while the rest of the board spent $13,299. Valdes defends the costs, saying “we’re able to bring different perspectives from things that are working in other communities.” WTSP.

School improvements: The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is receiving $9 million from the state for school building maintenance and improvements. St. Augustine Record.

Later starts: An epidemiologist makes the health case for later high school starting times. WLRN.

Charter schools: The oldest charter school in Pasco County has new leadership as it changes its focus. Dayspring Academy hires Suzanne Legg, who had been with the school 17 years, and begins a program that has students taking classes at Pasco-Hernando State College four days a week. Gradebook.

Teacher returns: Maria Larkin loved her Gulf Gate Elementary School teachers so much that she decided to become one herself. Monday, she begins teaching third-graders at the school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Principal removed: The principal at Pierce Hammock Elementary School in Loxahatchee is removed just days before the first day of school. John Carvelli was transferred to the Palm Beach County School District’s charter school office. The district says Carvelli requested the transfer, and the head of the teachers union says the move was a sign the administration was listening to teachers. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher killed: A music teacher who worked at several Pinellas County elementary schools has died after being hit by a suspected drunk driver. Caroline Sine, 34, was driving with a friend, Hillsborough County music teacher Sean Hankins, 36, when another driver allegedly ran a red light and hit Sine’s car early Sunday. Sine died Monday night. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: Thousands of students across Florida are fulfilling their requirement to take an online course by enrolling in physical education through Florida Virtual School. And yes, it’s as dumb as it sounds. New Times Broward-Palm Beach. The dishonest label of “government schools” feeds an education “reform” narrative of doom and failure. Kathleen Oropeza, Orlando Sentinel. The first day of school offers the promise of discoveries to be made, the joy of meeting new classmates and seeing old friends and the hope that this year’s teacher is not the sort that gives out homework the first week. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. Some parents’ acts of civil disobedience – refusing to let their children take Florida’s 3rd grade FSA standardized test – carries the risk of limiting the students’ academic progress. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Transgender athletes pose an unusual dilemma for schools and other athletes. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Miami-Dade students get a living science lesson from the Miami Science Barge, a floating classroom on Biscayne Bay. Children learn about renewable energy systems, sustainable food production and species native to Biscayne Bay, among other things, on the barge, which was made possible with a $300,000 Knight Cities Challenge grant. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff