Chorus against reopening schools growing, testing changes, virtual graduation, aid gripes and more

Reopening school opposition grows: The chorus of voices coming out against the reopening of Florida schools in May got more support Wednesday from superintendents of the largest school district in the state and of the district around the state capital, representatives of four statewide medical organizations and the statewide PTA. Miami-Dade School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho tweeted that reopening schools next month would be “not only unlikely but imprudent.” And Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said reopening schools would pose a “serious threat” to a “significant number” of school employees considered to be at risk because of their age or presence of an underlying condition. “It would be extremely disruptive, if not impossible, to shift back to finish the last few weeks of the school year in the classroom,” he said. They joined the president of the state’s largest teachers union, who argued this week against resuming classes, a statewide petition urging a continuation of online classes, and other superintendents and school board members have said they’re concerned about students going back to school before it’s safe. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he’ll appoint a task force this week that will make recommendations for “Phase 2” of the crisis, including what to do about schools. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPLG. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. Florida Politics. WTXL. WCTV. WKMG. Flagler Live. WFTV.

SAT, ACT changes: Students who missed taking the SAT and ACT college entrance exams because of the coronavirus pandemic will get more chances through 2020, officials from both organizations said on Wednesday, and may even be allowed to take the tests from home. The June SAT test has been canceled, but the test will be offered once a month starting in August. ACT testing is still scheduled for June and July, but is offering flexible scheduling as well as September, October and December test dates. The tests are not required for graduation this year, but no decision has yet been made on how to accommodate students who planned to retake the SAT to try to get a higher score and earn a Bright Futures scholarship for the fall. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Politico.

Virtual graduation: Palm Beach County high schools will hold virtual graduation ceremonies next month as a way to honor seniors and abide by the state’s ban on large gatherings. Graduates will not attend, but their names will be announced and their photos shown on-screen through the TV feed and online streaming. Speeches by administrators, valedictorians, salutatorians and graduation speakers will also be shown. Superintendent Donald Fennoy told students and parents that he also hopes to have more traditional ceremonies in the late summer, if they can be done safely. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC.

Aid called insufficient: A group of state and district educational leaders around the United States, called Chiefs for Change, contend in a report that the $13.5 billion for K-12 schools from the $2.2 coronavirus relief bill is “woefully insufficient” and “not nearly enough to meet the extraordinary needs of schools, students, and families struggling to cope with the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19.” They said the aid is inadequate to provide students and staff with the technology and Internet access they need for online learning during the pandemic. Politico. Private schools in Florida said they are beginning to receive aid from the federal coronavirus stimulus bill. redefinED.

Teachers being reassigned: More than 100 Volusia County teachers have been told they will be reassigned to different jobs for the next school year. Superintendent Scott Fritz attributed the moves to new attendance zones and the loss of Title I funds at some schools. Teachers union officials are unhappy. “In a time of uncertainty, in a time where we really need to be looking at things that truly are the most important,” said union president Elizabeth Albert, “why would we choose to add this additional layer of stress and anxiety on the backs of our people?” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

More on the coronavirus: Florida education officials said the lessons learned from this spring’s virtual schooling can be used to build on the idea in the future, both for emergencies and for special circumstances. “Next school year, maybe we have two, to three teacher planning days added and those teacher planning days are distance learning days so the muscle memory of what we need to do and be prepared is always right there before us,” said Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. WFSU. More than a quarter of the students at some Miami-Dade County schools did not log in for online school at least one day last week, according to district officials. WLRN. Pasco County School Board members said they will continue meeting through the coronavirus pandemic to conduct school business, but those meetings will held through teleconferencing instead of in person. Tampa Bay Times. Wifi hot sports are being delivered to Bay County School District principals this week, and will then be distributed to students who don’t have Internet access. Panama City News Herald. Twin sophomores at Miami Beach Senior High are using a personal 3D printer and laminator to produce facemasks for doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital and Miami Beach public officials. David and Jonathan Tamen developed the facemasks, and all the money earned goes toward the materials. Miami Herald. Students at the North Florida School of Special Education in Jacksonville have adapted to schooling from a distance and without the hands-on activities that are a primary feature of the school. redefinED. Hillsborough school officials say some residents are taking advantage of the food for students program by picking up food at distribution centers and reselling it. Tampa Bay Times. A Panama City charter school has a pizza delivered to the homes of each of its 50 students. WMBB. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WTXL.

School sales tax hikes: Brevard County School Board members said they’re considering not asking voters to renew a half-cent sales tax surcharge because of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The extra tax was first passed in 2014, and has raised $217 million to upgrade school facilities. It expires in December if it’s not renewed by voters. “Certainly there are considerations about asking our community to support an additional sales tax while people are struggling,” said board chair Misty Belford. “I think that is something that is going to weigh heavily on the board.” Florida Today. Indian River County School Board members said they will likely ask voters to renew a 5-mill property tax for another four years. The tax would raise about $9.5 million a year, and be used for recruiting and retaining teachers, mental and social wellness initiatives and upgraded technology. A final decision is expected April 28. TCPalm.

Prepping for the rainy day: Citrus County school officials said they’re socking away money they expected to spend but won’t because of the coronavirus pandemic, and because they’re anticipating significant cuts in funding from the state. About $1.3 million headed for salaries has not been spent on substitute teachers, overtime, extracurricular work and more. The district has also managed to save $616,000 in capital expenses because projects were concluded early or came in under budget, and on gasoline since school buses aren’t transporting students. “I think we’re going to need as much as we can for next school year,” said school board member Doug Dodd, “and that there will be a change in the monies that we get.” Citrus County Chronicle.

End to oversight requested: Marion County school Superintendent Heidi Maier is asking the Florida Department of Education to remove Evergreen Elementary School in Ocala from the list of schools that are in the oversight program. Evergreen has received grades of D or F from the state for years, but Maier said practice test data of the school’s students show significant improvement, enough to earn the school a grade of at least a C. For the past two years the school’s curriculum has been guided by an outside operator, Jayne Ellspermann. Ocala Star-Banner.

Charter application questioned: A charter school group’s application to take over Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto is coming under scrutiny after several people who were listed as being associated with the project said they are not. Manatee County commissioner Reggie Bellamy and Manatee County NAACP president Tarnisha Cliatt were listed as proposed advisory team members, but denied they’re involved. And Herb Washington, a former world-class sprinter and pro baseball player who was listed as a member of the governing board, said he is not. Bradenton Herald.

Nutrition rule struck down: A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to reverse the nutrition standards for sodium and whole grains in school meal programs was a violation of the legal process for approving new regulations. Those standards were put into place during the Obama administration as an attempt to make school meals healthier. New York Times.

Student loses appeal: A former Palm Beach County School District student who challenged his arrest on a charge of making threats of mass shootings has lost his appeal. The student posted a photo of himself on Snapchat with the caption, “On my way! School shooter.” Another student reported it, leading to the arrest. A circuit judge upheld the arrest, and an appeals court backed that judge’s decision. News Service of Florida.

Death cause revealed: A Broward County high school football coach died of diabetic ketoacidosis, the county coroner has decided. The death of Eddie Frasier, the head coach at Dillard High School, was announced Monday. The coroner said there was no evidence that Frasier had contracted the coronavirus. Sun Sentinel.

School construction projects: A $12.2 million project for new recreational fields has been approved for Wellington High School in Palm Beach County. Among the additions: synthetic turf for the school’s football field, batting cages, tennis courts, four synthetic-turf multipurpose fields and three basketball courts, a new concession stand with bathrooms, a new maintenance building and a parent pickup and drop-off loop. Work begins in May. Palm Beach Post. Monroe County School Board members approved air-conditioning improvement projects for six schools, new practice fields at Key West High School and three other infrastructure improvements. Key West Citizen.

Personnel moves: Five assistant principals have been promoted to lead Manatee County schools, the district announced Wednesday. Six other principals or assistant principals were transferred, and three district administrators also received promotions. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: How will the post-pandemic K-12 system change? I’m not sure, but COVID-19 is simply the first rather than the last major challenge of this decade,and the future does feel like a jump ball. Something more diverse, less standardized, more pluralistic and more humane would be very welcome indeed. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Gov. Ron DeSantis has floated the idea of reopening Florida’s public schools sometime in May. That’s lunacy, and I believe the governor knows it should not be done. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff