Phase 1 of reopening starts Monday, planning for restarting schools in fall, private schools and more

Reopening Florida: Phase 1 of the reopening of Florida’s economy begins Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Wednesday. The first of three phases of his plan, which he’s dubbed “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step,” will allow restaurants and retail businesses to reopen at a maximum 25 percent capacity with at least 6 feet between customers, and permit hospitals to resume elective surgeries, except in hard-hit Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Schools will remain in distance learning mode, and bars, gyms, movie theaters and salons will remain closed for now. Visits to nursing homes will still be prohibited, and while the stay-at-home order will be lifted, people are still urged to stay home as much as possible. If they do go out, they’re encouraged to gather in groups of 10 or fewer. “I erred on on the side of taking measured steps, even baby steps, to start on the road of a brighter day,” DeSantis said. He would not commit to when Phase 2 will begin, but did suggest it would be in weeks, not months. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Network. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WTSP. WPEC. Florida Politics. WFTV. WTLV. Florida Today. TCPalm. WPLG. WPTV. WKMG. WFTS. Answers to frequently asked questions about DeSantis’ plan. Florida Politics. Pensacola News Journal. WOFL.

Planning for reopening schools: Reopening schools is not in Gov. DeSantis’ Phase 1 plan to restart the state’s economy, but it is on the minds of educators in Florida and across the country. If schools reopen this fall, they are likely to look very different than they did before the coronavirus outbreak. In Miami-Dade County, school officials are considering requiring temperature checks and masks, looking into staggered start and finish times for classes, some combinations of in-person and online education, smaller class sizes and more. “We are going to prepare for every eventuality as we pray and hope that none of them come to pass,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. WLRN. WSVN. WFOR. New York Times. Poynter Institute. USA Today. Chalkbeat.

Threatened existence: For some Florida private schools, the coronavirus pandemic is a threat to their very existence. Of the more than 200 private schools that have responded to a survey from Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, 73 percent said they were expecting a decline in re-enrollment and 62 percent said they’re worried about the school’s viability for the 2020-2021 school year. “I think really small schools that are accustomed to living on shoestring budgets will eke this out,” said Michael Burroughs, executive director of the Florida League of Christian Schools. “I think larger schools have the savvy to leverage capital to manage this crisis. I think the greatest risk is the average school with 100 to 300 students. I think those have the potential to be the hardest hit. And you know as well as I do, that is the majority of religious schools in the state.” redefinED.

Common Core a culprit? Reading and math scores on a national test have fallen since the implementation of the Common Core academic standards from 2003-2013, according to an analysis by Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank in Massachusetts. Before the Common Core standards were adopted, according to the report, scores for 4th- and 8th-graders had improved slowly. But for the last six years, scores for those students have declined. Florida is among the states that have dropped Common Core and written their own standards. Florida’s take effect in the 2021-2022 school year. Education Dive.

Graduation plans: Hillsborough County school officials have announced a plan to hold in-person graduation ceremonies for their 27 high schools at the Florida State Fairgrounds between July 13-22. The plan hinges on safety recommendations in place around July 1. Backup plans will also be considered. Gradebook. Seminole County school officials are planning in-person graduation ceremonies in June, if possible, that can be delayed into July if necessary, said Superintendent Walt Griffin. Orlando Sentinel. Gulf County students will get to walk across a stage next month to collect their diplomas, district officials have announced. Then seniors will participate in a celebratory motorcade. Port St. Joe Star.

School year extended: The Duval County school year has been extended by three days to make up for “instructional time lost due to the extended spring break.” The school board approved adding June 1, 2 and 3 as instructional days, and the district made the announcement on its website. The school board also approved changes in the way students’ grades will be calculated for the last semester. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

More on the coronavirus: Leon County students who need wifi service can connect through one of 15 SmartBuses being dispatched around the county. WTXL. The Manatee Education Foundation has created the COVID-19 Relief Fund to buy things that students and teachers need for online learning. Bradenton Herald. Members of the community are using social media to “adopt” graduating high school seniors in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties. TCPalm. A Volusia County kindergarten teacher is getting to see his students up close by inviting them and their families to come to his house and use his putting green. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Some schools, such as Schoolhouse Preparatory in Miami, are having success engaging students with learning differences with art projects. redefinED. Brevard County businesses have donated more than $107,000 to buy laptops so students can participate in online learning. Brevard Times. In virtual field trips, elected leaders in Alachua County are joining students’ online classes to answer questions. Gainesville Sun. Lunch-line workers at schools in Lee County are getting hazard pay. Fort Myers News-Press. One hundred and thirty-one Florida schools have been designated as hunger-free campuses by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. FDACS. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of Education. Palm Beach Post.

District’s budget: The Monroe County School District is proposing a $115 million budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, with an anticipated shortfall even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. School board chair Mindy Conn said the board needs to remain flexible. “The one thing we don’t want to do is cut teachers or teachers’ salaries,” she said. “For this reason, I felt it was premature to discuss where to tighten until we have a better idea of what our budget is going to be.” Key West Citizen.

Contract approved: A contract agreement between the Polk County School District and its teachers union has been approved by the school board. The deal includes no pay raise for teachers, paraprofessionals and support personnel, but gives teachers an extra planning period each week and greater autonomy over their lesson plans. Lakeland Ledger.

School resource officers: The Leon County School Board has agreed to pay the sheriff’s office $1.4 million for its half of the funding of the school resource officer program for the 2020-2021 school year. The sheriff has assigned 25 fulltime employees to work in the schools. Tallahassee Reports. Clay County School Board members will consider a request to provide school resource officers to two charter schools. Clay Today.

Charter school approved: Marion County School Board members have approved the application for a charter school in the southwest area of Ocala. The Ina A. Colen Academy is projected to open as a K-6 school for 214 students in August 2022, then expand by a grade in each of the following two years and max out at 862 students. It also has plans to build a high school. Ocala Star-Banner.

Teacher honored: Judith Woodward, an art teacher at Pinellas Central Elementary School in Pinellas Park, is one of just 15 U.S. teachers chosen as a winner of an Artsonia Art Education Leadership Award. Artsonia is the world’s largest online student art museum. Patch.

Education podcasts: Florida’s teacher of the year, band director Dre Graham of King High School in Tampa, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about what he hopes to accomplish in his new job as executive director of the Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice. redefinED.

Notable deaths: Steve Hardin, a longtime teacher and coach in Florida high schools from Delray Beach to the Panhandle to St. Augustine, has died at the age of 69. Tallahassee Democrat. Panama City News Herald. WMBB.

Spat over school renaming: Hillsborough County School Board member Tamara Shamburger continued to criticize the proposal to change the name of Sligh Elementary School to the Bullard Academy at Sligh Middle School to honor professional wrestler and donor Thaddeus Bullard. Shamburger said the name-changing process has not been followed, and she took shots at Bullard, school administrators and new Superintendent Addison Davis. She argued that Bullard is a poor role model because he allowed “graphic and inappropriate” material to circulate on the Internet, and called Davis a “celebrity superintendent” who praises wealthy donors while urban schools continue to struggle. Shamburger has drawn three challengers for her seat in the Aug. 18 primary. Tampa Bay Times.

Compensating athletes: The NCAA Board of Governors has approved a plan that would allow college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images or likenesses. The full members of the NCAA will vote on the proposal next January. Several states, including Florida, have passed bills making it illegal for the NCAA to prohibit athletes from being paid for endorsements. If Florida’s bill is approved by Gov. DeSantis, it would go into effect in July 2021. Associated Press. Politico. State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, who wrote Florida’s bill, said the NCAA proposal “is kind of embarrassing for them” because it has too many restrictions on athletes. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times.

Girls wrestling backed: The Florida High School Athletic Association has voted unanimously to endorse the sanctioning of the sport of wrestling for girls. If the FHSAA board of directors approves the recommendation in June, Florida will join 23 other states in authorizing the sport. There were 708 girls who wrestled with boys last year. Supporters of creating the sport are pushing for it to start next winter. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel.

District launches investigation: Two Stanton College Preparatory School employees are under investigation by the Duval County School District. Assistant principal Sonya Elizabeth Rahming has been arrested and charged with domestic aggravated battery, and program coordinator Benjamin P. Nasrallah is alleged to have had inappropriate conduct with a student. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis has outlined a responsible reopening of Florida that allows restaurants and retailers to resume limited operations next week. But make no mistake: This opening phase still will be far from the old normal. Tampa Bay Times. Educators and the state showed a great deal of flexibility and innovation in getting distance learning programs off the ground so quickly. We’ll need those same qualities and more to ensure that when students finally return to their classrooms they’ll be able to do more than just pick up where they left off. TCPalm. The shifting of the permissible uses of school tax money has worked in the past for the Collier County School District. County commissioners should approve it being placed on the ballot, and voters should support it. Naples Daily News. Two weeks into online learning, a mother of two daughters decides that not everyone has what it takes to be a teacher. Lynn Cristina, Tampa Bay Times. Newspaper readers were asked their thoughts about online learning. They had a lot to say. Sun Sentinel. The state Department of Education should move quickly to grant a one-year extension of teacher certification deadlines and to suspend the expiration of certifications during the same time frame. FEA president Fedrick Ingram, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff