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Fauci issues a warning about reopening schools, repairs in jeopardy, laptops, schedules and more

A warning for Florida: Reopening Florida schools next month could lead to students being infected with the coronavirus, warned Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The idea of reopening was mentioned by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week, who said, “We’re going to look at the evidence and make a decision. If it’s safe we want kids to be in school. … Even if it’s for a couple of weeks, we think there would be value in that.” Fauci and President Trump were asked on Friday about that statement. Trump deferred to Fauci, who said, “If you have a situation where you don’t have a real good control over an outbreak and you allow children together, they will likely get infected.” Florida’s schools have been closed since March 17. On Sunday, however, Fauci did suggest that stay-at-home orders could be relaxed in a “rolling re-entry” phase sometime in May. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Florida teachers were critical of DeSantis’ suggestion that schools could reopen before the end of the academic year. WTVJ. A petition has been started in Florida urging the governor not to reopen schools in May. WBBH. Research at University College London suggests that closing schools has little impact on slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Reuters.

School repairs jeopardized: The anticipated decline in tax revenues because of the coronavirus pandemic has Hillsborough County school officials concerned about their 10-year schedule to replace and repair aging air conditioning systems. The projects scheduled for this year should happen as scheduled, they said, but there’s little certain about future years. “We should know the tax collection decrease in the next 60 days, which will allow us to have a greater understanding of the overall impact,” Superintendent Addison Davis wrote in a letter to the school board. The work is being financed through a half-cent increase in the sales tax, which was approved by voters in 2018. Tampa Bay Times. Santa Rosa School Board members and county commissioners are at odds over when the county should start collecting impact fees from new construction. The fees are supposed to be imposed as of May 4. Commissioners want to delay that by three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the school board is arguing against any delay. Money from the fees is targeted for school construction to accommodate population growth. Pensacola News Journal.

Online learning: Teachers of hands-on classes such as band, welding, auto repairs and cosmetology are having to get creative to instruct their students in a world of online education. They use a mixture of instruction, videos and brain-stimulating online games, and put a special emphasis on personal contact. “There was no playbook,” said Keith Griffis, band director at Sickles High School in Hillsborough County. “We’re just doing the best we can to make assignments that will be beneficial and fulfilling for these guys.” Tampa Bay Times. Beginning today, Leon County teachers take over for parents in leading online learning for the district’s students. Last week was considered a transitional phase, but with parents directing and being largely accountable for their children’s progress. Tallahassee Democrat. Marion County school officials are setting up a “Parking Lot Wifi” program at most rural schools to give online access to students who might not have it at home. Ocala Star-Banner. Hillsborough County school officials said 99 percent of students have taken part in the first two weeks of online learning. Tampa Bay Times. Brevard County school Superintendent Mark Mullins said an average of 90 percent of the district’s students are logging into the online education system every day. Space Coast Daily.

More on the coronavirus: More than 32,600 laptops will be issued to students and teachers in 34 small, mostly rural school districts through a partnership between the Florida Department of Education and the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School. WZVN. WJHG. WCTV. Florida Politics. Nearly 100,000 Floridians have signed a petition urging state education officials to not issue students grades for the last semester of this school year. Instead, the petition wants students to be given passing marks that won’t affect their grade point averages. “Students should not be penalized for a global issue that is now fully out of control,” the petition reads. Gainesville Sun. A principal at the Palm Beach Maritime Academy has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. School officials said they don’t believe middle and high school administrator Reno Boffice was infected before the school closed. Palm Beach Post. WFLX. WPTV. Proms and other end-of-the-year celebrations and even some graduation ceremonies have been canceled for high schools around the state, saddening students who were looking forward to memorable moments. Naples Daily News. Florida Today. Gainesville Sun. WFSU. A mental health counselor offers tips for students on how to handle the stress of isolation. Panama City News Herald. A researcher said schools should start preparing now for a steep “COVID slide” in learning in the next school year. The 74. Florida students are recreating artistic masterpieces using whatever materials they have lying around the house, some as part of online assignments. Palm Beach Post. Longwood Elementary School’s Sarah Hall, the Seminole County teacher of the year, recommends five books parents should read to their children while staying at home. WKMG. School districts and other organizations continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed, and some are making adjustments in their distribution sites and dates. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of EducationGradebook. WSVN. WPLG. Gradebook. WEAR. Orlando Sentinel.

New schedule for high schools: Most Lee County high school students are being switched to a seven-period school day in the fall, district officials have announced. The change, which students protested, will mean the loss of an elective class but an extra 15 minutes in school for 13 of the 15 high schools. Students at two struggling high schools, East Lee County and Dunbar, will attend classes for 51 extra minutes a day. Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendent searches: More than 10,000 people have submitted suggestions for the qualities they’d like to see in the next Sarasota County School District superintendent. The top characteristic mentioned was that a new superintendent should build and maintain “a trusting collaborative relationship with the school board, administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and the greater Sarasota community,” said Bill Vogel, the Florida School Board Association consultant running the search. Other top priorities listed were addressing equity issues and dealing with low morale among teachers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The two finalists for the Marion County School District’s job as superintendent answered questions about charter schools, technology, the district’s response to the coronavirus and more during a town meeting last week. The finalists are Diane Gullett, deputy superintendent of schools in Clark County, Nev., and Heath Morrison, a division president with McGraw-Hill publishing in Charlotte, N.C. Ocala Star-Banner.

Board considers spending requests: Manatee County School Board members will consider $30 million of spending requests at a meeting Tuesday. Among them are $15 million for food services, $5.25 million for computer equipment such as wifi routers, and up to $5 million for textbooks and instructional materials. The meeting is closed to the public but will be televised. Residents can call with comments or questions, or send in by email or fax. Bradenton Herald.

Social media spat: Sarasota County School Board members Shirley Brown and Eric Robinson are squabbling again, this time over social media posts and committee appointments. Brown was critical of Robinson and board member Bridget Ziegler for taking to social media to ask people what they thought about delaying the search for a new superintendent. Robinson defended his posts, and said, “This is how we communicate with the public now, (is) on social media.” Robinson, in turn, is angry with Brown for nominating Tom Edwards for the Citizens Advisory Board. Edwards is challenging Robinson in the next election, though Brown said she nominated him before he announced his candidacy. Englewood Sun.

Saving spring sports: A survey of almost 100 high school coaches and 19 athletic directors shows a majority agreeing that the Florida High School Athletic Association should wait to see if the restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic are relaxed before canceling the rest of the spring sports season. “I’d like to stay optimistic, no matter how grim this situation seems,” said Daniel Kerr, athletic director at Harmony High School in Osceola County. Orlando Sentinel.

Principal loses license: The state Department of Education has revoked the educator’s license of a former Leon County school principal who was placed on leave and later resigned after sexual harassment allegations were made against him. Former John G. Riley Elementary School principal Karwynn Paul stepped down in 2018 after at least five women accused him of making unwelcome advances and lewd remarks. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Early elementary school children who are struggling to read face serious long-term detriments unless the educational system finds a way, such as summer school or summer reading camps, to help them. Matthew Ladner, redefined. Florida parents have been given parents more power to find learning options that are truly best for their children. The results show that this is not only good for their children, but good for the public school system. Ana Maria Rodriguez, Miami Herald. The novel coronavirus has thrown schooling into mass confusion. However, it has the potential for freeing teachers and kids — at least for now — from weeks of test prep for near-useless machine-scored tests. Marion Brady, Washington Post.

Student enrichment: Six Florida school districts were among the 754 nationwide chosen as best communities for music education by the NAMM Foundation. The Broward, Escambia, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas and Palm Beach school districts were selected for demonstrating “an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.” NAMM Foundation. Tampa Bay Newspapers. Five Florida students are among 150 U.S. high school seniors awarded $20,000 scholarships by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. State winners were Aisha Chebbi of Coral Reef Senior High School in Miami, Kiran Ganga of Palm Harbor University High School, Helena Jiang of Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Karem Lamas of Richard Spoto High School in Riverview, and Kaitlyn Ludlam of Fleming Island High School in Orange Park. NewsDog. Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

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BY NextSteps staff