Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope, busing, charters and more

Schools of hope: Fifty of 90 eligible low-performing schools have applied to the state for grants through the “schools of hope” provision in the new education law. The law creates financial incentives for charter schools to move into areas with persistently struggling schools. But it also offers as many as 25 of those low-performing schools an extra $2,000 per student for special services such as after-school and counseling programs if they submit turnaround plans that are approved by the state. The Florida Board of Education is expected to choose which schools get the extra money at its Sept. 13 meeting. Sun-Sentinel. Gradebook.

Busing misdirection: Martin County school officials misrepresented why they decided to end busing for 850 students who live within 2 miles of their school, according to a newspaper investigation. Superintendent Laurie Gaylord blamed the state for her decision to end the courtesy busing, saying the provisions of a law made it impossible to prove that the 850 students faced hazardous walking conditions and, therefore, would be eligible for busing. But state Rep. Larry Metz, R-Groveland, who wrote the law, said the intent was to improve busing access to students, not restrict it. “Their letter is completely inaccurate with regard to the effect of the bill,” Metz said of the letter Gaylord sent to parents. TCPalm.

Charter group sues: A charter school group is appealing an administrative judge’s ruling that the state may deny facilities funding to charter schools that receive consecutive D grades. The Florida Association of Independent Public Schools is arguing that the state should use a standard of “satisfactory student achievement” instead of school grades to determine eligibility for capital funding. redefinED.

Solar eclipse: More on what Florida schools districts are doing during this afternoon’s solar eclipse. Florida Times-Union. Orlando SentinelLakeland Ledger. Bradenton HeraldWBBH. Santa Rosa Press Gazette. Northwest Florida Daily NewsBelle Glade Sun. WKRG. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WQAM. Associated Press. Florida Keys Weekly. Daily Commercial. WTSPThis summer, Haile Middle School principal bought 1,300 special glasses so students could view the solar eclipse today. Last week, Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene decided that all students would be kept inside during the eclipse. Bradenton Herald. As a 10-year-old in 1991, Neil Brown took a quick look at a partial eclipse in Walla Walla, Wash. It damaged his left eye. Now a teacher at Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach, Brown is warning his students about the danger of looking at the eclipse without special glasses. Palm Beach Post.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Hamilton County School Board votes to join other districts in a lawsuit against the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069. School officials contend the law, which requires district to share local property taxes with charter schools but limits the authority of local school boards over those schools, is unconstitutional. Board members agreed to commit $5,000 to the court fight. Suwannee Democrat.

Back to school: Today is the first day back to school for two of the state’s largest school districts, Miami-Dade and Broward. Hamilton County is the last Florida district to open, Aug. 28. Miami Herald.

School construction: Even as Okaloosa County voters decide whether to increase the sales tax to help build a high school in Destin, the district faces challenges on maintaining and updating aging schools. “I’d love to see Destin have a high school, but there are so many problems in this day and time,” says longtime school board member Rodney Walker. “The biggest thing we’re going to be facing, even with building a facility, is funding it year after year.” Northwest Florida Daily News. Construction on a new cafeteria has begun at Cypress Ridge Elementary School in Clermont. The cost is $5 million, and school officials expect the cafeteria to be open for the 2018-2019 school year. Daily Commercial. Architects say they’re on track to finish design work on the new Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Marathon early next year, with construction starting in June and finishing by the fall of 2020. The $23 million project includes renovations to the school and two new buildings. Keynoter.

Name change: Alachua County school officials plan to change the name of their district headquarters from the Kirby Smith Center to the Alachua County District Office. Edmund Kirby Smith was a Confederate general. Superintendent Karen Clarke said she had “spoken with board members and they’re all in support of that recommendation.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School enrollment: School enrollment is down in Sarasota County but up in Manatee County, according to a five-day count in each district. Manatee has 48,209 students, up 256 over last year but almost 800 short of projections. Sarasota has 42,318, down 138 from last year and 1,391 under the projected enrollment. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

After-school programs: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry proposes adding $2.7 million to the city’s budget to finance an expansion of after-school programs. If it’s approved by the city council, the expansion would add 1,720 students to the program at 21 locations. Florida Times-Union.

Health education: Health education is back in Lee County middle schools, with students being taught about public health, fitness, nutrition, Internet safety, dating violence, disease control, substance abuse, mental and emotional health and sex. Teacher Leisha Roy, whose persistence helped rekindle the program, says, “I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want a child to know what things are good to eat and how to stay physically fit and how to avoid diabetes and how to avoid drug and alcohol problems.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Mold problem: The 800 wing at the Osceola Magnet School in Indian River County is now free of mold, school officials say. Students will return to that portion of the school Tuesday. About 25 percent of the school’s students stayed home on the first day of school last week. TCPalm.

A charter’s troubles: Pasco County’s newest charter school, MYcroSchool, was projected to open the year with 250 high school students. Just 11 showed up on opening day, and three more the next day. The district, which had already transferred $252,000 to the school and was holding $257,914 in state grants that were based on the projected enrollment, was told by the state to hold off on disbursing any more money for now. The school aims to help students who are behind on their high school credits. Tampa Bay Times.

Turnaround school: Manatee Charter School, which was almost closed a year ago and later was given one more year to turn the school around, has a new principal, a new assistant principal, mostly new teachers, and new expectations centered around a program to develop leadership skills. Bradenton Herald. Carol City Middle School jumped from a string of D and F grades to a C last year after partnering on a mentoring program with St. Thomas University. Miami Herald.

Charter school grades: Almost 40 percent of charter schools in the Tampa Bay area received grades of C, D, F or incomplete from the state. Of the 35 that enroll a majority of students from low-income families, just 12 got grades of A or B. WFTS.

Union’s turmoil: Infighting is roiling the staff of the Pinellas County Teachers Association. The union’s six employees are squaring off against president Mike Gandolfo over pay, working conditions and Gandolfo’s management style. The union that represents the six employees, the Pinellas Staff Organization, has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Gandolfo and the PCTA. Tampa Bay Times.

School lunch time: Students at Osceola High School in Kissimmee and their parents are petitioning the Osceola County School District to increase the school lunch time from 30 to 60 minutes. They say the lunch lines are so long that many students don’t have time to eat anything. WKMG.

District accused: Washington County schools are violating the constitution by mixing public education and religion, according to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that defends the separate of church and state. The case could be an early test of a new state law that allows students and teachers the right of religious expression in schools. Washington County News. Panama City News Herald.

Title I funding: The Santa Rosa School District is asking the federal government for $4.6 million in Title I funding this year. The district received $4.3 million last year. The money is used to provide low-income students with extra services for math and reading. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Personnel moves: Scott O’Prey is the new principal at Seacoast Collegiate High School, a charter school in Santa Rosa Beach. Walton Sun.

Child dies at day-care center: A 3-year-old girl dies at an Ensley day-care center. Escambia County sheriff’s deputies say the child may have been left in a van owned by the school, In His Arms Christian Academy. The Florida Department of Children and Families ordered the center closed. Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher arrested: A physical education teacher at a Flagler County middle school is arrested and accused of domestic violence battery. Travis Holloway, 37, a teacher at Buddy Taylor Middle School, has been arrested three times in the past eight years, twice on domestic abuse charges. Flagler Live.

Guns at schools: A 22-year-old woman is arrested after bringing a gun to the Pleasant City Elementary School in June. A parent found the gun in the school parking lot and called the police. Before they arrived, Brianna Eugenia Ballard drove up and reclaimed the gun. Palm Beach Post. Two students are arrested for bringing a loaded handgun to a high school football game in Pinellas Park. The two teenagers, students at Boca Ciega High School, were showing off the gun during the game between Robinson and Pinellas Park high schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former Brevard County teacher is sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting a student. Andrew Bayard, 34, a former teacher at Kennedy Middle, Suntree Elementary and Viera High schools, was arrested in 2015. Brevard Times.

Opinions on schools: Your Florida Legislature keeps funneling public school dollars into private charter schools, so money to fix or replace failing air-conditioning systems in Hillsborough County is disappearing. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times. Charter schools aren’t the cause of anyone’s late-summer air-conditioning woes. Travis Pillow, redefinED. I suspect that many of the students who will be skipping school on Monday have no interest in the eclipse, but are simply looking to turn this rare celestial event into an extra day of leisure. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Choosing educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune’s likeness for the National Statutory Hall would send a powerful signal to the world that Floridians recognize our state’s rich history and its present-day diversity. State Sen. Perry Thurston Jr., Florida Times-Union. We hope the Polk County School District can find the money to give employees a 2 percent raise, as a special magistrate has recommended, but the union should brace itself for disappointment. Lakeland Ledger. Students at Rutherford High School and the Bozeman School are both winning because teachers and administrators have opened new opportunities for students to prepare for STEM careers. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Miami’s Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired opens a 72,000-square-foot Learning Center for Children with new technologies to help students. Miami Herald. The Diocese of St. Augustine’s Morning Star School opens a $1.5 million wing for special needs students. Florida Times-Union. Escambia and Santa Rosa teachers get training on how to teach writing to students through an intensive project offered by the University of West Florida. Pensacola News Journal. Thirty-four Chinese students between the ages of 9 and 13 get a taste of American food and speaking English in school during a week-and-a-half stay with Polk County families. Lakeland Ledger. One-hundred and twenty Miami-Dade high school juniors will be taught 13 trades in a new youth pre-apprenticeship program. The pilot program is being offered at four schools: Coral Gables Senior High, Miami Edison High, Homestead High and Miami Carol City Senior High. WPLG. Jessica Fredricks, a fine arts resource specialist with the Polk County School District, uses the rhythm of drums to improve student behavior and teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Lakeland Ledger.

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BY NextSteps staff