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Florida schools roundup: School security app, portables, voting and more

School security: The Florida Department of Education and the Attorney General’s Office are collaborating to build a suspicious activity reporting app for students and others that would allow them to anonymously report “unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities” to local law enforcement. The app, called Fortify FL, is scheduled to be launched before the beginning of the next school year. Tampa Bay Times. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Task Force wants “as many security enhancements in place before the start of the school year,” says member Max Schachter, whose son Alex died in the shootings Feb. 14 at the school. He says the task force is developing short-term and long-term solutions in perimeter security, cameras, doors, locks and glass, and predicts metal detectors will be in place at the school in the fall. Sun-Sentinel. Security needs are putting a strain on the Broward County School District budget, and 35 administrative positions are eliminated as the district tries to close a $13.6 million deficit. Sun-Sentinel. Bradford County deputies begin training 16 school employees who volunteered to carry guns at schools under the state’s guardian program. WJXT. Sarasota County School Board chairwoman Bridget Ziegler wants to meet with local law enforcement officials to clarify their partnership as the district prepares to start its own police department. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Thirty-five people died in school shootings during the 2017-2018 school year. Education Week.

Portable classrooms coming: The 25 classrooms that are now closed because of the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High will be replaced by portables this summer, according to school officials. Superintendent Robert Runcie says most, if not all of the classrooms will be in place by Aug. 8, when teachers return to school. The school board approved a $2.5 million contract for the replacement portables and 17 others. The building where the shootings took place will be torn down after confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz’s trial. Sun-Sentinel.

Students registering voters: A drive organized by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg and the New York-based organization HeadCount is signing up high school students around the country to vote. More than 1,000 schools in 46 states are participating, and most began their drives Tuesday. Associated Press.

Reading test results: More than 1,400 3rd-graders in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties and 1,100 in Manatee County could be held back because of their low scores on the Florida Standards Assessments language arts testing. Around Florida, 44,000 students could be retained. TCPalm. Bradenton Herald.

National spelling bee: Thirty-one students are representing Florida at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Preliminary rounds were Tuesday and today, and the final rounds are Thursday. Just three of the Florida students have been eliminated. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Rezoning approved: The Pasco County School Board approves the redrawn school boundaries for the west side of the county in what one parent called “a very painful civics lesson.” About 500 students will change schools. At least one parent has said he will fight the rezoning in court and through the U.S. Department of Education. Gradebook.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Outgoing Manatee County School Superintendent Diana Greene gets high marks in her final evaluation from the school board. Greene received an average of 9.1 out of 10 in 14 categories. Board member Charlie Kennedy decorated his evaluation with Internet memes, saying, “I didn’t really take it all that seriously because she is leaving.” Greene takes over the Duval County superintendent’s job in July. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

New schools: A new gifted school for 2nd through 5th-grade students that opens in August will be called Orlando Gifted Academy. It’s the first of its kind in central Florida, and it moves into the old Fern Creek Elementary School. The school has space for 434 students, and 400 have applied. Orlando Sentinel. Construction begins for the new Chisholm Elementary School in New Smyrna Beach. The $20.7 million school, which is being built adjacent to the existing school, is scheduled to open in August 2019. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The new Gerald Adams Elementary School in Key West is going up behind the existing school. Officials hope to open the $37 million rebuilt school to students after the winter break. Key West Citizen.

Finishing up: Citrus County students may be out of school, but teachers are still trying to wrap things up. Grades, inventory and room-cleaning all must be finished before teachers check out for the summer. Citrus County Chronicle.

Union certification drive: A two and a half-month recruiting drive lists the Pasco County teachers union to the cusp of meeting the requirements of a new state law to remain certified. Union officials say 49 percent of the eligible teachers are now members. The law requires that number to be over 50 percent. The union’s registration renewal is Sept. 1. “Our goal is really to be at 55 percent,” says union president Don Peace. Gradebook.

Ex-coach suing board: The former girls basketball coach at Gainesville’s Buchholz High School is suing the Alachua County School Board, claiming she’s a victim of the district’s racial and gender discrimination. Rebecca Williams was fired in September 2016 but was given no reason, the suit claims. The team had just been ordered to forfeit all its games because it used a player who was using another student’s name. WCJB. USA Today.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former chemistry teacher at Port St. Lucie High School is sentenced to five and a half years in prison for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old student. Tiffany Geliga, 36, had pleaded no contest. She was arrested in May 2017 after a boy said he had sex with her twice. TCPalm.

Employee reassigned: Rodney Smith, assistant director for operations and student transportation of the Volusia County School District, is reassigned after his arrest on charges of solicitation of prostitution. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Students arrested: A Coral Gables Senior High School student is arrested and accused of making a hoax threat against the school. The student created an email account under a classmate’s name to make the threats, according to school police. WPLG. Miami Herald. A 14-year-old Deltona Middle School student is arrested and accused of making a false report about a school shooting. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A 13-year-old Jay High School student is arrested and accused by Santa Rosa County sheriff’s deputies of making a false bomb threat. WEAR.

Bus driver ticketed: A Manatee County school bus driver is cited after driving into the back of a stationary car at a traffic light. None of the eight students being transported to Blackburn Elementary School was injured. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: The Martin County School Board is asking the city of Stuart to annex three schools. The city’s police department would then be asked to cover all its six schools. And while that might not be the main reason to ask for the move, it’s one that could make sense from both a practical and fiscal standpoint. Gil Smart, TCPalm. Yes, it was easier for a Marion County teacher to just to take his students outside and let them help him drown nuisance critters in a big barrel of water. But a better school lesson would have been the one that required a little more homework and humanity. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The Legislature offered school districts affordable security options. But Sarasota County’s School Board chose the Cadillac plan, and then began blaming the Legislature and our sheriff over money. State Rep. Joe Gruters, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In northwest Florida, socioeconomics isn’t the cause for low enrollment in physics, chemistry and calculus at large high schools. It’s the adults – administrators, counselors, teachers, parents – who don’t make it a priority. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Richard Smithies, a student at Coral Gables High School, wins the South Florida Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge for his business venture, Helios Mining. It uses solar panels to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to boost profits while still being friendly to the environment. Smithies now competes in the 2018 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge this fall in New York City. Miami Herald. Students at Old Kings Elementary School in Flagler Beach release the 200 striped bass they nurtured from hatchlings as part of a class project. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff