Florida schools roundup: Rules waived, extra funding, class times and more

State rules waived: Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart waive rules to allow students displaced by Hurricane Maria to enter schools in the state. Schools may now accept students who don’t have documentation and hire teachers who don’t have the paperwork proving they are certified. Stewart also waived the residency and student record rules for college students. Orlando SentinelGradebook. News Service of Florida. Sun-SentinelSunshine State News. Capitolist. Naples Herald. WMFE. WKMG. Only a fraction of the schools in Puerto Rico have reopened. Education Week.

Funding for arrivals: Florida school districts have been urged to accept any and all students displaced by the hurricane, but the Department of Education has not guaranteed it would provide extra dollars for those students. The DOE says the only districts that will get supplemental funding are those that see an enrollment increase by 5 percent or more, or schools with an enrollment bump of 25 percent or more. Legislators who urged the state to welcome displaced students are now lobbying state officials to cover all students. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post.

Class time variations: When it came time to make up days lost to hurricanes, school officials quickly discovered a wide variation in classroom instruction time from district to district and even school to school within districts. That happens because, while every school has a minimum amount of instruction time required by the state, it also has discretion to set daily schedules that can lead to significant differences in classroom time. Some school officials say the discrepancy is no big deal, while others worry that some students are being shortchanged. Tampa Bay Times.

School marketing: Many for-profit schools in Florida and other states are offering rewards to students who persuade other students to enroll or who endorse the school on social media. The promotions often coincide with the time the states count enrollment to determine how much money each school receives. ProPublica.

Bright Futures: Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says his top priority for the 2018 legislative session is to make the expansion of Bright Futures scholarships permanent. The Legislature committed $300 million to Bright Futures in the last session, covering 100 percent of tuition and a books allowance, but the expansion was for one year only. TCPalm. Legislative meetings begin this week in Tallahassee, with public education getting special attention. At least three subcommittees will discuss the handover of the Jefferson County School District to a charter company. Tallahassee Democrat.

District spending review: Two Duval County School District finance officials issue their report on how the district spent $21 million more than budgeted last year. The report notes costly redundancies, such as parallel budgeting system, a reliance on spending in anticipation of expected “excess” funds arriving, the use of outdated teacher pay schedules to put together budgets, and unclear guidelines on the best use for federal grants and the hiring process, among others. A second report, by board auditor Michelle Begley, is scheduled to be presented to school board members Tuesday. Florida Times-Union.

Hurricane damage: Hurricane Irma caused about $21 million in damage to Lee County schools, according to district officials. Fort Myers News-Press.

DeVos visit: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits schools in Everglades City and Immokalee to see storm damage firsthand. “It’s very sobering and stark for me to witness,” DeVos said in Everglades City, where schools were flood-damaged and 44 students and three teachers were left homeless. A spokeswoman says the department will help affected districts with money from the Project School Emergency Response to Violence, which has been used before to help school communities recover from traumatic events. Naples Daily News.

H.B. 7069: State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, defends the new state education law, H.B. 7069, even as he acknowledges that its funding formula hurts his home Pinellas County School District – a fact he did not know before he voted for the bill. “When I’m faced with one of those kinds of bills, I ask myself, ‘Does the good outweigh the bad?’ And I think with 7069 that was the case,” says Latvala. Gradebook.

Complaints against districts: An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union is critical of the Lake County School District’s new policy that requires students to get parental permission to join a school club. The change was made after the district lost a court fight to stop middle-school students from joining a gay-straight alliance club. “The change in policy was specifically meant to stop the GSA [gay-straight alliance],” claims attorney Daniel Tilley. Orlando Sentinel. The Collier County NAACP files a complaint against the school district because school board members recently voted to have classes on on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make up a day lost to Hurricane Irma. Naples Daily News.

Superintendent evaluation: Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell receives high marks from the school board for his second year on the job. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Segregated schools: The Leon County School District is one of the five most segregated districts in Florida, according to a recent study by the LeRoy Collins Institute. Tallahassee Democrat.

School turnaround: After four straight years of earning a D grade from the state, Campbell Middle School moved up to a C last year, and principal Jerry Picott says the next step is to improve to an A. It won’t be easy at a school where almost 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and almost a third have learning disorders. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Contract negotiations: St. Johns County teachers and the school district meet Wednesday to try to close the gap between their contract offers. The teachers want the district to commit $1.7 million for raises, while the district is proposing no raises. School officials say the 1.4 percent increase in funding from the state is “not enough for us to do what our board would like to do for our staff.” St. Augustine Record.

Teaching materials: The Marion County School District decides to choose its own instructional materials instead of using what the state chooses. “We are the first district in the state to go through the process to choose our own instructional materials, independent of what the state had already adopted,” says Superintendent Heidi Maier. News 13. Ocala Star-Banner.

Rebuilding a school: Palm Beach County school officials want to rebuild the 50-year-old Addison Mizner Elementary School in Boca Raton, and are considering two sites. One is the current location, which is small at 11 acres and would restrict space for athletic fields. The other is at a 24-acre park a mile west of the current site. Palm Beach Post.

School water alerts: Schools in Melbourne and West Melbourne are under a boil-water advisory due to a water main break. Florida Today. Flagler County school officials are warning students to stay out of standing water at bus stops. Heavy rains have caused some sanitary sewer overflows. Flagler Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Personnel moves: Largo Middle principal Stephanie Joyner and Clearwater Fundamental principal Linda Burris are swapping jobs on Oct. 16. Gradebook.

Station, district dealing: A committee will consider three options to end the dispute between the Miami-Dade County School District and the radio station it holds the license for, WLRN. The options: Tweak the existing agreement, have the district sell WLRN’s operating license, or appoint an independent nonprofit to run station operations. The committee was created after a backlash when Miami-Dade Superintendent Albert Carvalho suggested the district should hire and fire reporters. Miami Herald.

Dress code complaint: A Bruner Middle School mother says her daughter was sent home for violating the school’s dress code policies, even though the length of her shorts were well within the allowable height above the knee and she was wearing leggings. Okaloosa County school officials have not commented, or responded to the mother’s request for a meeting to discuss the dress code. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Report on student’s death: A Lee County sheriff’s report calls the June 29 death of a high school football player at practice an accident. But several questions about the death of Riverdale High School football player Zachary Martin-Polsenberg remain answered. Fort Myers News-Press.

Student committed: A Duval County mother is outraged that her 6-year-old son was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for 72 hours under Florida’s Baker Act. Officials at the Wayman Academy of the Arts called the police after the boy began throwing book bags and punching walls. “I know that that’s behavior that’s not tolerated in the classroom,” says the mother. But there’s other ways you can handle that. Call a parent before you say, ‘Well, I’m fitting to Baker Act your child. I’m going to call police’ – on a 6-year-old.” WJAX.

Lacrosse programs: Manatee High School adds girls and boys lacrosse. It’s the first public school in the county to add the programs. Bradenton Herald.

Students arrested: Two Duval County students are arrested and accused of bring guns to their schools. An 18-year-old student had a loaded gun at Biscayne High School, a charter school, and another student with a gun was arrested at Mandarin High School. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. An 18-year-old Riverview High School student is arrested after hitting a student in the face several times with a BB gun at school, according to Sarasota County deputies. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student hospitalized: One Bellview Middle School student was hospitalized and another faces charges after a fight in a school bathroom, according to Escambia County sheriff’s deputies. Pensacola News Journal.

Bus fleet honored: The Lake County School District bus fleet is ranked No. 77 in the country by School Bus Fleet magazine. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: From the outset, the Sarasota County School District’s hiring of a private public-relations firm had bad optics. Last week — a month into a two-year, $225,000 contract with the company — the experience turned out badly. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Alachua County schools need new funding for school facility improvements. Given the lack of state support for such improvements, the Alachua County School Board is right to seek a local funding source to address these needs. Gainesville Sun. Florida State University’s rationale for starting a dual-degree teacher education program is built on dubious logic. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Twelve Florida schools have been designated as blue ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education. All are choice schools – charter or magnet – or in the Brevard County School District. redefinED. A new program at Tyndall Elementary School is aimed to easing the transition for military children arriving at a new school. The program is funded by the U.S. Navy. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff